Art, Suffering, & Crafts

IMG_0809Today was meant to be an insanely productive day. Instead, I did nothing. Seriously, I didn’t do any of the things I was supposed to do today. It’s terrible.

On the bright side! I got creative and ended up making necklaces out of old clothes.I’m pretty happy with how they turned out, although I need to work on making them look more polished. Still, for an impromptu activity, I’m fairly pleased. Tickled, even. I have a whole bag full of clothes that I was thinking of selling or giving away, but now I’m thinking of keeping them and making some more necklaces. Who knows, maybe I can sell them and make a bit of money that way.

I’ve been thinking about a scene in St. Urbain’s Horseman. Where Jake, the main character, is wondering about the effects his happy marriage could have on his children…

“Jake feared that a felicitous marriage not only reflected poorly on Nancy and him, stamping them superficial, tin-like, but it was also bad for the kids. Everybody he admired, his most imaginative and resourceful friends, had emerged from afflicted homes. Dad a zero, mum a carnivore. Parents so embittered that they wrote off their own lives and toiled only for the children’s sake. Divorced parents, vying shamelessly for the kids’ affections. Quarreling, lying, but, inadvertently, shaping rebels. Hammering out artists. Whereas in their home there was only symmetry, affection, parents who took pleasure in each other’s company.

What are we spawning here, Jake wondered? Surely from such a well-adjusted and cozy childhood only ciphers could spring. Cocooned and soft-minded dolts, who would grow up totally unprepared for life. Sammy would never shoplift. Molly wouldn’t have hysterics. In a drug culture, they were already tranquillized.”

We always hear about how true Art requires not only talent and dedication, but also a certain amount of suffering. Blood, sweat, and tears have always been touted as essential ingredients in the making of truly great art. It is necessary to to feel intense pain in order to accurately portray it, in order for our art to be relevant. Otherwise, art becomes superficial and meaningless. At least, that’s what people say and it’s Jake’s concern, as well. Will being happy and loved mean that his children will grow up to be adults without dimension, people who lack strength and resilience.

But, is it true? Does a lack of hardship mean a lack of character. Not petty hardships, but true, life-changing ones. The kind that tear your soul, that make you lose your beliefs and hope – death, poverty, hunger, betrayal. All of these demand more than a pound of flesh and it’s thought that it’s this karmic payment that imbues the artist with a greatness that goes beyond merely being talented. When the soul tears in half part of it goes into the artwork or the writing, just like a Horcrux (Harry Potter is relevant everywhere). However, is it impossible to achieve that particular quality without having gone through a similar experience? Can great art be made out of not knowing “real” pain?

Here is another thought. There are a great deal of writers and artists who have been terrible people, far from having suffered, they’ve caused suffering in others. These are people thought of as geniuses and pioneers in their fields, but have also been rapists, mysoginists, even murderers. Not to mention, a lot of artists, musicians, and writers throughout history have just been dicks. People have suffered at the hands of moody, self-righteous, sometimes violent creatives. Does this mean then that art’s relationship with suffering goes both ways? Is it possible suffering is necessary, irregardless of whether one suffers or inflicts it on others? Do we have access to the pain we cause, even if we can’t feel it?

I don’t have have  answers to these questions. I think rather than needing to suffer or feel what people refer to as “real pain”, what we truly need are experiences. Of course, going through difficult and painful situations can definitely breed good art, but I don’t think it’s a guarantee of it. Whether they’re happy and fulfilling or painful and heartbreaking, we need meaningful experiences to shape our lives and, in the process, our art.

Now, having taken this moment to talk very seriously about art, I’m going to leave you with a piece that’s not even a little bit serious.

Sorry, not sorry! Stay golden, readers.

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