gershon hepner

Rookie (5 3 38 / leipzig)

creativity can't make up for depression


Creativity cannot make up for depression
which it attempts to cure,
it can’t replace it with the kind of supersession
that made spurious lure
of Christianity when it induced some Jews
to make up for their loss
of their identity, condemned, they thought, to lose
unless they chose the cross.
No, creativity provides a transient high,
and then becomes a wraith,
for those who’re so depressed they find they cannot fly,
because they’ve lost their faith
in their ability to reproduce success,
which if it is not con-
stantly repeated is a letter whose address
appears to be, “Dear John.”

Inspired by an article (“In Praise of the Crack-U: A novelist peers through darkness to find glittering gems in writing and art”) , by the South African-born novelist Jeanette Winterson, lesbian lover of Julian Barnes’s widow, Pat Kavanagh, in the October 17,2009 WSJ (A report about her lesbian relations includes the information: Blessed with good looks that led many to compare her to Katharine Hepburn, she secured a nonspeaking part in Under Milk Wood. “I never got paid, but I did get to snog Richard Burton, ” she said) . Winterson writes:
The stories are well known; Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear and went mad. Sylvia Plath gassed herself. Anne Sexton committed suicide. Emily Dickinson was manic-depressive. Virginia Woolf worked through alternating bouts of madness and depression for most of her life. The mad, bad and dangerous wild boys of high art and popular culture make great copy—whether it's Caravaggio on the run for murder after one of his rages, or Allen Ginsberg, naked and drunk, howling through Manhattan. The women—Plath, Frida Kahlo, Maria Callas, Janis Joplin—imploding like dark stars, are the stuff of obsession…. Longing is painful. Every work of art is an attempt to bring into being the object of loss. The pictures, the music, the poems and the performances are an intense engagement with loss. While one is in the act of making, one is not in loss, and one has meaning. The fierce crashes that happen to many creative people when a piece of work is done (read Hemingway on this) come out of the sense that however good the work, it has not answered the loss. The strange thing about creative work is that it can have enormous value for others while its maker is left ravaged. The ancient Greeks understood this as the price of an encounter with a god—the divine forces enter the human and use him or her as an instrument, only to be ultimately destroyed. But I do not believe that creativity is destructive or divine. I believe it is the part of us that gives shape and voice to our innermost reality. This is frightening. Encounters with the real, in particular what we really feel, are something we generally try to avoid. Art mediates the encounter, allowing us to get nearer to our longing and our loss, to risk more, to dare more. Yet for the maker, the exposure is not mediated; it is total and terrifying. That is why so many creative people cut themselves off from their own experience, using drugs or drink or sex or shipwreck to avoid absolute exposure to the pain of creativity. When Whitman turned to face his dark angel, to wrestle with himself, he was acknowledging his own loss, his own longing, his own unstaunched wound.


10/18/09

Submitted: Monday, October 19, 2009

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