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Monday, 12 January 2009

Angst and Art

Why is it that so many great artists, composers and writers died in poverty and their works were only described as masterpieces after their death? Why is it that so many people adopt the pose of the 'misunderstood genius' to attract attention or explain their failure to succeed? Or worse, why is it that there is something self-aggrandizing and attractive about being the 'misunderstood genius'; and art critics and literary critics, wanting agreement and trying to sound wise, nowadays kowtow to the image so it is turned on its head. The outcast, the failure, the piece of rubbish art, is hailed as genius!

In my youth I used to think there was something heroic about being a failure. What can be more romantic than the notion of suffering for your art? And, truth be told, what can be more self-indulgent or self-aggrandizing? True art, surely, needs no suffering. If art is an expression of Life and Love and of all it is to be alive and to feel deeply, it is, like Anthony de Mello's expression of "a bird doesn't sing because it has a lesson, but because it has a song."

Somewhere, in all of us, I think there is a martyr message - the heroic failure, the poverty-stricken artist for whom the world wasn't ready. And it is balderdash! If you have a song, sing it. If you have something to paint, paint it. If you have a gift, use it! Why should you suffer for it? Oh, that lovely, self-indulgent angst - the chaotic passion of Tchaikovsky; the terrible mutilation of Van Gogh; the madness of the great poet John Clare! We all feel the depths of our inner loneliness solely because we believe we are special and the world doesn't understand. Utter nonsense!

When we feel, feel deeply, feel to the core and go beyond the core of our own angst, there is a well-stream of Oneness. There is joy and real beauty. In my view, the only reason artists, composers and poets died in poverty in garrets is because they believed that poverty was necessary for their art. And yet, the source of art is the same source that created planets, the wastefulness of leaves in autumn, the excesses of Nature. The only real angst is that which we create for ourselves....I think!

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