Saturday, April 24, 2004

being unhappy

Terry Teachout makes some remarks about unhappiness vs. happiness being inspiration for the arts - and how people appear to prefer to like unhappiness to happiness when it comes to calling something 'art'.

that's something i've thought about many times in the last few years. i mean - i was prolific back in RGS and RJ: writing poetry was (relatively) easy, and my poems -while not wonderful- were not terrible, either. about the only thing they had in common with each other -the poems i mean- was the fact that they were about being -- unhappy, incomplete; about yearning for something missing, or missing something that is about to go away. about what might have beens, if i had been braver/luckier/stronger/wiser.

and now that i'm in college, the flow has slowly dried to a trickle, then to nothingness. an empty streambed. :) i'm left with appreciating the works of others -manymanymany props to josh yap- in the little time i have to spare from my frantic reading and writing classes. why? well -- i'm less unfulfilled. i love college life and it challenges me, stretches my brain in unexpected ways, leaves me too tired to brood over life's inequities (at least, with regards to my own life; to the world in general? plenty of time.). i'm not looking over my shoulder in regret at the lost love, the lost opportunity, the lost time. i'm too tired doing the things i do to reach inside of myself to find the words to express real meaning, and have too little time for fiddling with the sounds and feel of different words, their descriptive nuances, their emotional triggers.

and there's the key, i think. in the absense of unhappiness, and of enough time and energy to think, it's hard to produce something good. something real. writing is -for some- a cathartic process, a means of getting the wrongness, the badness inside of you outside; externalising an internal pain; exorcism. doesn't matter whether the pain is a broken heart, or a betrayed loyalty, or rage against the craziness of (some aspect of) humanity. if it's left inside it festers, and poisons, and renders you dysfunctional.

of course, that's not to say that everyone writes equally well or even that everyone writes to get rid of the ugliness inside of their heads. clearly that's not the case. i couldn't write music like Sondheim if i spent all my time and energy trying. i've seen happy poems -in the minority, but there- (though i must confess, i generally don't like them very much). but to me, the trigger, the urge to write, the germ of inspiration -is discontent. unhappiness. longing. a driving desire to immortalise something transient, something fleeting, before it's gone forever.

why do people respond to it in the theatres, or in books/newspapers/journals, or the radio? i guess maybe because it helps them -for a little while- exorcise their little demons in ways that they can manage, without their having to write a musical or a book/poem - it finds them words or other expressions of their own private misery. because very few -veryvery few- people are genuinely happy all the time about everything, and because nobody likes to be unhappy. and maybe it's because we're willing to believe that we are not alone in our misery, but we're not willing to believe that our happiness is unique, perhaps similar -but not identical- to any other's experience.

-shrug- that's my two cents' worth. read Terry Teachout's piece. :)


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