I've always found it thrilling how an influence, though it be miles or years removed, can touch down at one particular point in any person's life and dramatically change it in some way. Somewhere between space and time, that influence, Rod Serling, decided to approach me on the very important subject of censorship.
If there's anyone I hope you're acquainted with it's Serling, the creator of the Twilight Zone. He the unshakable voice of chaos who made his name creating imaginings that have lasted decades after his leaving us. However, his lasting legacy may be his contribution to fighting censorship.
Censorship comes in many forms - most commonly associated with covering up nudity, profanity or avoiding uncomfortable topics altogether. The usual suspects. Despite the recent and fantastic success of Breaking Bad, which dealt with the taboo subject of our own capacity for evil, I'm convinced we're censored more than ever before. Yes, even with the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey and the sideshow of bawdy fiction that has since followed it. In the pursuit of finding more consumers - the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - messages are becoming watered down to nothing more than word soup to make it palatable for a nameless, nebulous audience. There is a sad and unmistakable irony in that many writers are struggling to be heard, but it is their own voice they are trying so hard to avoid.
The ability to be alone with our thoughts is an incredible experience we have access to, but each day we're tempted to shun it in favor of the most trivial of diversions. And once we, both artists and consumers, have numbed our minds and filled it with one-hit wonders, mall art and reality drama, we'll have then succeeded in censoring our own voice with astonishing completeness. The very thing that gives us individuality and the passion to help it thrive.
Notions of quantity being superior to quality - more equals value - have taken hold and so it seems that true art no longer has credibility in a large marketplace and that an artist's value lies in their prolificacy. Serling argued against that and instead empowered the notion of individuality and its commercial ability. He sees value in a work "as long as you are not ashamed of anything you write if you are a writer. As long as you are not ashamed of anything you perform if you are an actor...This suggestion made by many people that you can't have public acceptance and still be artistic...I reject that."
This tool we have - the internet - is an incredible opportunity, and are we, among the first generations of artists to use it, wasting it? Serling was one of many writers fortunate enough to be writing for the young medium of television, and he saw its potential for financial security. What I find interesting though is that he believed in his voice to the point of betting on it in the face of censorship from his sponsors and audience. He won. Competition is tight today in the art world, and financial security, although attainable, is still difficult to come by. However, as artists - and I believe everyone has the capacity to be one - we have a purpose and opportunity just as Serling did. Our challenge is to create something worthwhile: A voice shaped with strategy and instinct into a work of beauty and spiritual subsistence.
To all who are considering art as a vocation, hobby, or object of interest let me borrow from Rod Serling and tell you: "You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone."