Monday, May 25, 2009
Life is lived at a certain pitch. There is a familiar set of relational sounds, a mid-range emotional frequency matched with an interaction equilibrium of sorts that is more or less maintained throughout the general ether of life. Most of what we experience emotionally is adequately felt and communicated through the conversations and interactions found in our personal world.
But from time to time, or perhaps season to season, the emotional frequency/tuning of our lives can hit a range that is more extreme than the usual mid-spectrum range of our work-a-day lives. We experience the heady thrill of falling in love, have a spiritual encounter which fills our souls with golden joy, or arrive at the giddying heights of a long-sought triumph. The high-pitched hot notes of this emotional frequency are not easily conveyed to those around us, and we fumble with the limits of language to try and share what is happening.
At the other end of the spectrum, sorrow and heartache can take us into that chilling emotional range where pain is sharp, and internal conflicts ominously threaten our norm-neutral living space. Adding to the hue of grief that colours this sub-zero emotional region is the isolation that comes with being tuned to a frequency of feelings that are ‘out-of-range’ for normal conversations and interactions.
It is intrinsically human to want to share our highs and lows, and to connect emotionally through the roller coaster of life. Yet, how strangely difficult it is to communicate with others during our highest highs and our lowest lows, even with those whom we love like our own selves.
There is an ancient proverb, which says, 'Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy', which is not an exhortation to give up communicating (!) but perhaps a recognition that there is an eternal dimension and capacity for sublime fullness of experience built into us as human beings. The extreme experiential frequencies we are capable of feeling seem to remind us of the existence of the Divine in our own creation, and to remind us to honour the mystery and dignity of each uniquely formed soul. If our experience of life on this earth can be felt on a broader spectrum than can be adequately conveyed to our fellows, it seems as another clue to me that 'we were made for another world', an idea that the great thinker C.S. Lewis explored in his writings.
How wonderful is the gift of art and creativity within this dynamic! Art is so often created from these ‘extra-terrestrial’ emotional frequencies and carries the tone of an experience that is more easily sensed than explained, better ‘caught’ than taught. A song written from one who knows heartache can find you and carry you when your own sorrows pull you from the normal regions of interaction. When joy is beating in your soul, such release can be found in finding the song with a beat that makes you soar, turning it up full volume and dancing the night away in your own kitchen!
Music and painting, poetry and dance are all art forms that seem to be sublimely equipped to grapple with the emotional extremes of our experiences, more effective often than explanations and conversations. Why else do we dedicate songs to our friends, write poetry for our loved ones, paint rather than describe the image we see in our minds eye? Why does going to a music concert with friends feel in many ways like a spiritual encounter, like we are all united and caught up into something greater than ourselves?
In all these ways art is capturing and communicating what words alone cannot. To experience extreme emotional frequencies is the terrain of every human soul. To capture something of that experience in such a way that your fellows can join with you, is the joy of the artist.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
The artist lives in two worlds simultaneously. The external or outer world, the skeletal framework of his life, with which he engages to work and play and practically relate to those around him. Less visible, but perhaps more potent, is the existence of his inner world, the womb of creativity, where he perceives and listens with different eyes and ears and lives a parallel existence within this private space.
How different these two worlds are! And how separate they can feel from one another. One deals with tangible realities, the other with invisible realities. One deals with the here and now, the other is musing on past, present and future all at once and framing a view through which to understand them. One is relatable and accessible, the other is difficult to capture and contain in a way that can be shared meaningfully… and yet, what is the job of the artist if it is not to capture something of those invisible realities and make them known to the outer world?
Now, you say, the artist does not have the monopoly on the private musings of an inner world. Naturally. Point taken. Invariably though, the artistic temperament seems to feel the keenest divide between the worlds, to have the most vivid experiential dichotomy between the two, and to have the greatest need to reconcile them. Enter creative expression.
When the world inside your head feels more real to you than the world outside your front door, the action of creating something that can be expressed, seen or heard produces sharp relief. Presenting your inner interpretation of the world you experience seems to produce a bridge that links your two worlds together. When a melody comes up from inside of you and sings to your surroundings, when lyrics are penned that make known a thought that was previously known only to you the ripple effect is profound.
The very act of creative expression in this context is an intersection or apex of your dual realities. It gives you, the thinker, the reflective one the chance to be known, to relieve the inner loneliness that comes from flowing in a river with a deeper current than most. It gives the opportunity for the world around you to interact with your inner world, to be given a back-stage pass if you like to the theatre of your heart. There is great joy in being known, especially in giving glimpses to such a core dimension of you.
Not only is there the relief of reconciliation and the joy of making yourself known however, but also there is the thrill that comes from presenting something valuable to those around you. To serve others is to be enriched. To allow others to perceive something newly by seeing through your eyes is to contribute greatly to the world. To enable them the vicarious relief of getting something said that is so hard to put into words is no small service.
And so it seems the bridge of creative expression is a two way street, a servant that serves two masters by all at once providing the artist a way out, and others a way in. And in doing so, both reflecting and participating in the Divine.