There is a Bruce Springsteen song called Reason to Believe. The title is ironic, because the characters in the song are living hopeless lives without chance of making them better. They look for some reason to keep going, but Springsteen questions if there really is one. This would make for a completely depressing song if someone else had written it. But Springsteen has another kind of song: Promised Land and Thunder Road fall into this category. It’s the Escape Is Possible song. It’s the song of his life: you can transcend the ordinary by writing music, by getting in a car and driving, by making your own reasons to believe.
In a class about Tibetan Buddhism, I learned that there are certain rituals that must be performed thousands of times. This consists of saying a single line and bowing to the floor repeatedly. You will do this for a couple of hours a day until you reach the correct number of repetitions (up to 50,000!). It can take years. Once you’re done, you have achieved a greater state of awareness. The ritual is about losing yourself in the practice. Saying this single line over and over and bowing is a physical and mental task, so you become completely preoccupied in it.
I think about these two ideas a lot when I’m drawing comics. Like Reason to Believe, there is no guarantee that my comic will ever be widely distributed. There is no defined finish line. More importantly, if I do not make it happen myself, no higher power is going to come down, touch my forehead, and grant my wishes.
There is also a repetition about filling in many boxes with pictures. I’m not trying to say it’s a religious experience, but there is a parallel to the practice I mentioned above. When I looked back at the four years I drew The Family Monster, I realized I had drawn over 800 comics. That’s a lot of individual panels. Besides the tangible evidence of my achievement, there was a sense of growth and change on my part. I couldn’t say exactly what that change has been, but I know it has occurred and continues to occur with Falling Rock.
Belief is a strange thing, and saying you believe has serious (often conflicting) connotations to religious and non-religious people. No matter what you believe in, it is an important, perhaps essential, part of life.
Keep on truckin’.