David Byrne’s Affirmation for My Tired Soul

I’m tired. I’m not immune to colds, I don’t possess any superpowers, and I’m not able to work all day every day. This is obvious you say? Of course it is. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes it’s hard to admit. I want to be upbeat and energetic and empowered to battle it out in this crazy city, but sometimes I’m not.

But what’s more troublesome is that I’m emotionally tired. You can remedy physical exhaustion with sleep. But how can you remedy emotional exhaustion?

I was recently asked the question, “how important is it for you that others agree with you?” The question was referring to other theater critics—I don’t care much on that front. Art is subjective, and I think art is even better if it inspires discussion based in something other than pure agreement. But I do care that others agree with me on some more important topics. Whether a piece of theater is to one’s taste or not is unimportant. Whether that theater, all theater, should exist at all is an entirely different question. And I am offended when others disagree with me on that.

I am offended when others disagree that the current state of our country is making it nearly impossible to be an artist. I seethe when someone says that student debt isn’t a problem. I fume when I’m told that the government was right to bail out the big banks. I should respond in an even, levelheaded tone, but lately, when I’m tired, I just want to cry.

I don’t bring this up to complain, but to give you perspective on why I felt such immense relief upon reading this article by David Byrne. Please just read it. I’m too tired to explain it all to you.

A post of mine a few weeks ago posited that the student debt crisis is everyone’s problem. There were other things in there that I don’t expect everyone to be onboard with. But the general theme of the debt crises affecting every member of this country is a little more important to me. Someone told me, “sorry—I just don’t buy it.” What I should say: We’re all entitled to our opinion. What really happens: I cry inside. To that person, read David Byrne’s thoughts.

“Unlike Iceland, where the government let misbehaving banks fail and talented kids became less interested in leaping into the cesspool of finance, in New York there has been no public rejection of the culture that led to the financial crisis. Instead, there has been tacit encouragement of the banking industry’s actions from figures like Mayor Bloomberg. The nation’s largest financial institutions are almost all still around, still “too big to fail” and as powerful as ever. One might hope that enlightened bankers might emulate the Medicis and fund culture-makers—both emerging artists and those still in school—as a way of ensuring a continued talent pool that would invent stuff and fill the world with ideas and inspiration, but other than buying blue-chip art for their walls and donating to some institutions what is, for them, small change, they don’t seem to be very much interested in replenishing the talent pool.”

David Byrne’s complaints about New York are not just about New York. New York is standing in for our country at large, for the change in values that is removing the arts from schools around the country and shutting the government down.

Thank you, David Byrne (for everything really—for your background with the Weathermen, for your killer “Love this Giant” album, for Here Lies Love at the Public Theater). Thank you for making me feel like I’m not a crazy person. And now, I’m going to go take a nap. Maybe I’ll grow a thicker skin while I’m sleeping.


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