Avoiding contentment

Okay, “avoiding” is the wrong word. But there is one compelling reason to be apprehensive about it:

It just occurred to me why I’ve lost inspiration and passion for my art. It started in the mid-eighties when I started listening to all that New Age weebie-wobie crap about happiness being our birthright as human beings.

That may well be for regular people, but the Muse never kisses the completed, fulfilled artistic soul. I’m sorry, I didn’t make the rules, that’s just facts. No wonder the Arts are taking a beating. A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that almost 85% of Americans believe that they are happy. And that’s just sad.

I’ve never been able to get a Muse to return my calls, but it’s always seemed to me that if everything seems to be going your way, it’s at least possible that you’re not actually going anywhere.

This does not mean, however, that we need to spend our lives on the bleeding edge:

I now realize that all that contentment came at a great price: my Muse no longer felt needed, so she left. I cast out a powerful force, that is, the impetus behind my art. In a word, I committed artistic suicide by eradicating melancholy from my life.

I’m not talking about clinical depression, mind you, which certainly needs to be treated. I’m talking about that bittersweet, aching sadness that demands artistic expression. If we erase that from our lives nothing needs to be expressed and we become banal, not only as individuals, but as a society. What will finally satisfy us Americans? Money? If so, how much money is enough? How many gadgets do we really need? How many pairs of shoes can we actually wear? How many TVs can we watch? How many pills can one take before one feels robbed of the fullness of life in all its grandeur and messiness?

The line between clinical depression and “bittersweet, aching sadness” is not always clearly delineated, I suspect; at various times in my life I’ve found myself switching sides, and I’ve never been particularly good at nailing down the exact crossover point. And it occurs to me that maybe I’m not supposed to.

Still, I duly pop my anti-anxiety tab every day, at least partly because I fear the consequences if I don’t.





3 comments

  1. Tatyana »

    3 February 2008 · 11:17 am

    I found in myself symptoms of all disorders you linked to (excluding outright criminal desire to violently inflict severe harm), in less-or-more amount. And I think in large part it’s a matter of phraseology. That’s why I absolutely do not trust any, however learned, medical professional claiming to recognize with certainty that line, the border, where artistic sadness or bitterness brought on by simply living long enough turns into clinical depression or any (or all) of the conditions listed.
    They are humans and too can “see causes in others”, while in reality they simply made wrong evaluation, tied to their own idiosyncrasy.

    And yes, you can say that my distrust is a sure sign of “paranoid disorder”.

    As to periodic spasms of gut-wrenching loneliness, usually at a time when I can deal with them the least – at least nobody tells you that “it’s just PMS”.

  2. miriam »

    3 February 2008 · 10:20 pm

    I become a quivering wreck without my Wellbutrin. I don’t want to chance it.

  3. fillyjonk »

    4 February 2008 · 1:06 pm

    I don’t know; these kind of arguments (that being happy is not a societal good because you don’t produce Great Art) kind of make my head hurt.

    (Then again, I tend to be one of those “happy” people who “never produced anything worthwhile.”)

    Another thought: The Stupid Local Morning News Program ran a “Health” story about “Is it possible to be too happy?” with the conclusion of “yes,” because, apparently, people who are “too happy” don’t run to the doctor at the slightest symptom and are generally unlikely to “better” themselves by training for higher-level jobs.

    Like I said: makes my head hurt. And that makes me not-happy. (So maybe I’ve achieved a goal and maybe I should go home and write an opera or paint a mural.)

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