Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dark Night of the Artist

"Fear not suffering - the sadness
Give it back to the weight of the Earth
the mountains are heavy, heavy the oceans.
Ah, but the breezes, ah, but the spaces - "
   ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Last week we began breaking down the discussion of the romanticism of the writing life with a discussion of the work of the artist as a part of the daily tasks of living. Mr. Pond led us to a lovely story of his, which gives a living picture of his understanding of the balance between the two, and which I highly recommend. Jenna gave a beautiful reminder that daily life gives the artist experience, which truly is "necessary for the creation of good art."

This week I have in mind the artist suffering.  In the romantic ideal, the writer is a brooding soul, and sorrow feeds his muse. In college, I argued against this ideal constantly, and even now I feel that art can come equally well from both joy and suffering, but I do think that there is a tendency for the artist to feel deeply, and feeling deeply, to suffer in and for the world. That suffering, mingled with the joys of life, with the daily things, is boiled down in the soul of the artists until all his works well forth from these rich, fully infused memories, what Rilke described as "blood remembering".

I feel as though I am almost a stranger to suffering, and so I don't like the idea that suffering is an essential aspect of art. My life has had it's delays, it's frustrations, it's pains, but true suffering, depression, I don't know. I don't pursue suffering though, in pursuing art, instead I trust life to send me what I need. And, though Rilke tells me I must suffer long, I hope that maybe I can make art out of the little pains, forming them into beauty and raising them up to the Good.

"Long you must suffer, not knowing what,
until suddenly, for a piece of fruit hatefully bitten,
the taste of the suffering enters you.
And then you already almost love what you savour. No one
will talk it out of you again."
    ~Rainer Maria Rilke

I don't want to pull my discussion partners into painful thoughts, but I would like to explore the necessity of suffering to the artist. Some suffering is inescapable in life, but what do you say - is it on equal footing with joy, or does it create better and richer than the happy times? Are the romantics right to write in despair?

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