and gasping as one nearly drowned I come
to myself in mundane places,
having traveled to universal, starlit spaces beyond spaces where
silence is a tense exultation and not
the mute, forgotten, ordinary
quiet of one’s often emptiness from which comes no
sight, nothing but a
longing for electric potentialities which will not rid the life of the
organize meaningful minutes with mandolin;
chords ascend and break through emotion
transcend the splendor of the ocean and crash
and clang in roiling waves into steel hull of a now toppled ship at sea,
all salty soldiers and sailors shouting and skidding sidelong into
even as they come to be through my words.
Should I apologize?
Clouds part as red sky pushes forth taking first crying breath and lights the evening
All of my wreckage strewn about I quickly
clean with another typing,
as the sea captain stands up now on sandy beach and dusts himself off cheerfully
after having a more exciting moment,
hearing mandolin cooing cooly behind
dense green ferns of wide, spiny leaves and dripping dew,
calling him to other worlds
where dreams, like sirens,
dine surreptitiously on desires.
Silence is very important for me, not only as a time to reflect and to pray, but also as a sort of meter of my mood. Having now been over a year out of a serious depression which took much more than that of my life, I have learned to be especially sensitive to how I am doing. When I am really doing well, even the small and seemingly insignificant silences find meaning and purpose as God meets me in a whisper and I am able to write and to hold fast to a sure hope. When I am doing poorly, silence is terrible and poses to me the choice of either staying in the silence and falling into the depression which is truly just a drug or bandage for pain and is a lie no matter how good it may feel at the time; or I can move away from the silence, find close friends and/or music (I actually play guitar, not mandolin) or sports (I love rock climbing with my girlfriend, even though I’m pitiful) or something else.
What is difficult is knowing that, for me, it is in the silence where I am most able to write and to think clearly. But that means I have to be in a good place, not in depression. Artists, especially those who struggle with mental illness, must be extraordinarily careful not to sacrifice their own well being for the sake of being able to write, to paint, to create music, et cetera. We think, “I have to have the intense experience of what I went through to write well, to keep people interested, to be authentic. That’s the only time I can really create good art.” This is utterly false, even though it is invoked so often in our culture.
Drawing inspiration constantly from pain and anger is self-destructive; art should use the pain to create beauty and health from that, otherwise it’s not really creation as much as it is an overwhelming expression of those issues. While it is vital for us to work through issues in different ways, even and especially for some artistic ways, that can’t be where we stay forever. There will come a time when we need to move on to better things and it is important to recognize when it is time for us to move on. To move on from the “shipwreck” moments that we think give us the best art we will ever make, give us the connections which are the most intense. In truth, this is the illness (like sirens) preying upon our desires for love and connection, for hope and clarity. We begin to sacrifice relationships (even fake salty sailors) for the sake of what we want to do.
Instead, it is in the well moments when we are able to see the simple and the ordinary as absolutely beautiful and inspirational. Every person is him or herself a wellspring of beauty obscured by a cloud of dust and smut which they have accumulated throughout life, from the actions of others and from their own actions as well. It is wonderful to be able to see through that and help him or her see through that as well. Artists need to be perceptive, not just emotive. And good perspective comes from standing in the light, not standing in the darkness.
There are so many people who blog and by so doing begin to work through their pain. I did this for a time, in my own way. But I fear for the people blogging when this working out goes on for years and years without any signs of light breaking in. I’m not saying those of us who struggle with mental illness are ever “cured”. Like I said, I still struggle all of the time. But there is more hope than depression these days.
Recently I have been able to begin writing again after two years of not producing much. I had to focus on getting to where I needed to be emotionally and spiritually before I was really able to create again.
This is my simple prayer for the others who blog through their struggles: do not let your art, popularity, desire to extreme emotions, or unhealthy methods of finding inspiration keep you from getting better, from seeking the help you honestly need to seek. If we are not honest with ourselves, how can we ever hope to create art (or anything, I use art in an extraordinarily general sense) for others which is authentic or honest?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” -Jesus Christ