Once upon a time, in a country quite small, lived the world’s most talented artists. Some were stage performers; people from all over the land would flock to see these wonderful actors put on marvelous plays filled with stunning visuals and captivating performances. They were so moving they often brought whole audiences to laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, excitement and anguish. They thrilled and inspired even the most critical of people. And the people were happy to pay them to entertain.
There were also musicians. With haunting chords and chilling melodies, they could provoke such powerful emotions and deep thought, it penetrated deep into the very souls of their listeners. The people would wander from all over the land to hear these minstrels play their symphonies of sound. There was no end to the money they’d pay to listen over and over again to their favorite performers. And still, the people were happy.
Painters and sculptors lived there, too. Their work would inspire philosophy, theology, and the highest sorts of thinking. The people lost themselves in the wonderment of their beauty, battling with their wallets over who could own what. And once more, the people were happy.
Thinkers gathered, too, in this quite small country. They captured their thoughts in writing, telling the most fantastic of stories and sharing the greatest of truths. They were profound and practical, engaging and adventurous. They enriched the lives of those who read them, and the people would purchase these books faster than they could be kept on the shelves. And all were happy.
Over time the small little country’s reputation grew. It was rumored to be a mecca of prosperity and peace. A land of riches and abundance where the greatest of thinkers, artists and creators lived. The small country started to grow and attract even more talented individuals. People from all over the world enjoyed the creative works that the country produced.
But after a while the people of the world became accustomed to having such wonderful art and entertainment available to them. They started to take for granted the contributions these creative individuals offered. “Why should they be so prosperous,” they asked, “while we make next to nothing from our hard jobs. We can’t afford to pay for this amazing entertainment we have grown used to receiving. It’s just not fair!” They cried out. “We deserve quality entertainment whether we pay for it or not!”
Soon there were miraculous inventions that would allow you to make copies of the the artists work. The people were so happy that they could get all of this wonderful art and entertainment for almost nothing! Soon almost everyone was making copies of their favorite music, plays, books and art and sharing them with friends. “Isn’t this so great!!?” they exclaimed. “What a wonderful time to be alive! We get all of the best works of creation and we don’t even have to pay for it!”
And for a time the world was happy….
But soon they began to grow tired of the music, plays, books and art they had copied. They looked for new works to copy and soon found that they could find nothing but cheap imitations and watered down drivel. “Why are all the new songs so dull? Why are all the new plays so uninspired? Why are all the new books so lifeless? Why is all the new art so bland? Where are the creators who made the great entertainment we grew so used to?”
A young man so fed up with these substandard works decided one day to search out the talented individuals who once created such amazing masterpieces. He went from town to town and eventually he came to a small Inn. Being very tired he walked into the Inn and ordered a drink. As he sat there he heard beautiful music being played by a small group in the corner. He became very excited as he realized he had finally found what he was looking for.
He waited until they were done playing and walked over to them. “That was incredible music!” He exclaimed. “What are you doing here playing in this place? The world needs to hear these wonderful songs!”
The group stared at him for a moment and then broke into laughter. The young man was confused but waited politely for them to answer his question.
“We once shared our music with the world” said a young woman in the little band, “But we couldn’t afford to keep playing and writing new songs because no one would pay us to perform them. We moved here to find work and now we only play for fun once in awhile.”
The young man was saddened by this news but was thankful that he had a chance to hear the small group perform. He left the Inn and kept on his journey. He came to a small village and in the town square was a small play being performed. The young man recognized some of the performers instantly and was excited to see the play. It was very well performed and the young man went up to the actors afterward and asked them what they were doing in such a small village when they could be performing in huge theatres.
One of the actors replied, “We couldn’t afford to put on such a lavish production because no one would pay for it. We had to move here to find work and we only put on plays once in a blue moon for our friends here in the village.” Once again the young man was saddened. Still he was not discouraged and he continued on his way.
He eventually came to a pub and decided to stop in and quench his thirst. As he sat at the bar he overheard a conversation from the men sitting next to him. They were discussing some very interesting subjects and seemed so well informed on what they talked about.
“Excuse me” said the young man, “But why don’t you gentlemen write a book on what you were discussing. It seemed so insightful and I’m sure the world would love to hear from your perspectives.”
“Are you kidding me!?” the nearest man asked. “We were both once authors but no one bought our books and we went broke. You’ve probably read some of our work.”
Indeed the young man had read their books and felt guilty that he had not paid for them. “We moved here to find work that would pay us,” continued the man, “and now we just share ideas between each other and some of our close friends.” The young man was now very sad and guilty as well. He almost decided to turn back but continued on.
As he walked he passed by a store and decided to stop in and purchase some supplies. When he entered the door he saw a face he recognized very well as being one of the best sculptors in the land. The young man was surprised to see the sculptor in such a small store in the middle of nowhere and asked the man what he was doing here. “No one wants to buy my works anymore,” the artist said sadly. “So I sell jars, bowls and other practical things that people will want to purchase.”
At this the young man broke down crying, saddened by all he had learned. He made his way out of the store and started the long journey home thinking of all the great works of music, theatre, writing, and art that the world would never see.