IT STARTS with questions: Why me? Why not me? How can I? What can I do?
Artists, more than people of other callings, are most familiar with rejection. Whether our art is that of the word, the stroke, the note, or the stage, there are as many talented ones as there are stars.
That being said, some stars shine relatively brighter than others in some parts of the sky. That is something we always contend with. It’s a taste we need to acquire, just as a son must learn to appreciate his father’s beer.
Often, we please those who reject us, not because they happen to be sadists and thus take pleasure in seeing us cringe in defeat. Rather, our art is simply pleasing and smile-inducing. Being rejected does not mean we’re incapable artists. It simply means that in that corner of the sky, some stars shine brighter than we.
In rejection, we learn more about ourselves, where we belong, and those who truly affirm us. Bitterness can be tinged with sweetness, after all. But it’s a stage in the development of the artist’s purpose: from the discovery of one’s passion to trudging through The Questioning by caring (but rather traditional) parents.
From beginner’s luck at a well-received blog or upload to rejection of the first application at a college org, artists climb many mountains. But many times, we will find ourselves on the other side of the slope, controlling the rope rather than hanging from it.
Artists, too, must learn how to let go and say no. We ourselves become the very harbingers of rejection. First and foremost, are we not our own critics?
It takes courage to look in the mirror when you know you’re really wasted. It’s like setting free a once wounded turtle which you found washed up outside your seaside hut—a turtle that you nursed back to health and in the end learned to love, but nonetheless (to shift metaphors) is a porpoise with a purpose elsewhere.
What more when working on a piece, a portrait, a picture show, or a play?
There’s a niche for all those slashed digressions, all that cut footage, all those dropped ideas, that instrumental in the middle. One can enjoy a tapsilog meal without too much achara.
It hurts, yes; it may put us off for a time, while our friends think we’re moping over the death of an uncle or the loss of a lover. It hurts to let go of something, but in the end we do so not out of passion, but for a purpose. Isn’t letting go a form of rejection? A choice over two potentials: to hold on or to move on?
Each human mirrors the entirety of humanity, and so does each individual struggle, each individual act of letting go and rejecting. Sometimes, man gets too comfortable with a structure he does not realize is crumbling.
Quite conversely, man is also capable of identifying what is failing. Didn’t the Romans decide to shift from a monarchy to a republic, relatively unheard of in those times? Did we not at one point decide to stop hating Justin Bieber upon realizing we were such immature bigots, and decide to give his music a chance? And later dislike the music but not the person?
Rejection for rejection’s sake is destructive, but rejection used properly can be constructive, too.
At this point in life, many of us have learned to drop many things, habits and people. When youthful idealism and mature realism mix, we can decide what stays and what goes. After high school, I learned to let go of people who were pulling me away from who I was, to drop orgs and cliques that were stunting my existential growth. I sought a recycle bin, not a baggage counter.
And so does the course of human history. After many repeated mistakes, there comes a point through the centuries where man collectively looks back and identifies the sharp rocks on the slopes of development. A renaissance follows the dark ages, and reformation succeeds that renaissance.
Perhaps this Pearl of the Orient can follow suit. It’s late, but hopefully never too late. Habits take time to drop, but they also take time to develop, so if we act fast…
What will happen if we put artists in leadership positions? What if policymakers and think-tankers adapt the affect of artists?
What if democracy can be scrapped for something more apt for a nation still reeling from colonialism, torn between the failing ideals of a bygone century and the uncertainties of the future? Can we scrounge up the courage to reject longstanding notions of stability when these contradict our goals?
Can we think outside the box, and more importantly, take a step outside?
Maybe Congress needs some artists, too. Maybe the priesthood can use an indie rocker clergyman. Maybe literature professors can work hand in hand with their political science counterparts. (Not to say there aren’t artists amongst the PolSci faculty, but you get my point.)
Maybe the President of the Philippines can be a video editor who toils long for something short, cutting entire hours of footage for the final, essential minutes?
Lasting progress in our country is trapped in a quagmire of overgrown vines, of outdated and sickened systems and institutions we have submitted to for lack of something better and brighter to hold on to while guiding the way. Who will the brave pioneers be? Who has the strength to lift the bolo and sever the vines?
I end with more questions than answers: How can we? What can we? When will we? A choice is ongoing; it starts but does not end once made.
And before a choice can be made, one must consider the art of rejection.
Peavey Vergara, 18, is a communication freshman at Ateneo de Manila University.