For Art to be Art, We First Need Suffering

Sunset through the thicket

When a person is lost in thought, does that make them crazy or creative?

____

When a person is lost in thought, does that make them crazy or creative?

Three things can happen from being lost in thought:

1.Lost in thought and unable to come back.

2.Lost in thought but you find your way back. You bring some of the wildness with you, and it has changed you.

3.Lost in thought, you find your way back. You bring some of the wildness with you, and it has changed you. You are inspired and you create.

Which one of these is crazy? Each one and none of them.

Look at the list again. Each of these can be a form of craziness, creativity, or retirement. It all depends on your perspective.

Creativity as a form of socially acceptable madness

Creativity has been defined as the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.

Mental illness can be defined as any of various disorders in which a person’s thoughts, emotions, or behavior are so abnormal as to cause suffering to himself, herself, or other people.

The difference between creativity and crazy seems to be whether or not the experience causes suffering.

“No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, modeled, built, or invented except literally to get out of hell.” Antonin Artaud, Poet (See Reference for citation)

Art has emotional power. Suffering is also an emotionally powerful experience. The difference may be that art is something that is shared, it is appreciated and it is moving.

If life was nothing but unending joy, there would be no need for art. The difficulty, the power of experience itself is what gives the spark. Unending joy would be it’s own form of madness, like an endless trip on Ecstasy. 

Art is something that we experience through the senses that emotionally moves us. For many people, the edges of their art are tattered and worn thin from years of suffering. Art often allows us to express our suffering, make sense of it and derive meaning from our experience. Art takes what is an internal, subjective experience and externalizes it.

Art is born of suffering, tells the story and shows off what we have learned.

Can there be creativity without suffering?

Life is difficult for each of us. From birth, experience and struggle go hand in hand. Bones grow and create growing pains. Learning to walk means we must repeatedly fall. All stages of development bring unique trials.

Life itself is a struggle. The struggle brings suffering along with joy, pleasure and beauty.  At times, I find myself wishing for less struggle in my life, my work, my relationships. Things can be so damned difficult.

Light will find youIf life was nothing but unending joy, there would be no need for art. The difficulty, the power of experience itself is what gives the spark. Unending joy would be it’s own form of madness, like an endless trip on Ecstasy.

Suffering is the spark that inspires art because powerful experience gives birth. That is just how things are. Any powerful experience has the potential to be a creative moment, an inspiration for beauty, joy or pleasure. Even suffering. Especially suffering.

Art needs suffering because life itself needs suffering. To thrive, we need struggle, growth and yes even suffering.

“I think I’ve only spent about ten percent of my energies on writing. The other ninety percent went to keeping my head above water.” Katherine Anne Porter 

So today, if you find yourself lost in thought, enjoy the moment. Being lost may be profound. Being lost in thought can be one of the most creative things you could ever do. If you have a difficult time finding your way back, if you suffer, try to enjoy the scenery. It may be the spark that you need.

Keep it Real

Reference:

Jamison, K.R. (1993). Touched with fire. NY: Free Press Paperbacks. Citation of Antonin Artaud, see page 121

Popova, M. (2014). The relationship between creativity and mental illness. Brain Pickings.

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Photos by smswaby


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