The Architect and I had an interesting discussion last night about the correlation between artistic inspiration and contentment–or rather, discontentment. We both noted when we’re happier, we’re less productive. When we feel domestically at ease, the creative urges aren’t so urgent, the drive to show the world our souls less demanding.
We’ve all heard the tales of the genius among us, the boozing, reclusive artists who always teetered on the edge of madness, spinning their masterful works while tap-dancing on suicide’s razor-thin edge. It is their work we grudgingly admire, our esteem tinged with notes of jealousy, tinted gray from pity at their usually disastrous ends. The question today is neither of their eminence in literature, nor their firm hold on the threads of desperation, but merely a question of whether or not their despondency gave fuel to their artistic fire. Did their singularity of purpose drive away all other earthly aims, making them intolerable companions, thus fueling their solitude? Or, did their wholehearted attachment to the pain of life, their complete submersion in every moment of despair, build the foundations of their brilliance? And, if the latter is the case, what would a struggling novice relinquish to attain that level of artistic supremacy?
For me, the answer is, not much. The Architect and I have had eleven good years, the most content of them being the most recent. While I crave even a fraction of the vision that drove our most celebrated authors to craft their respective masterpieces, I have no desire to let go the peace that has pervaded my life these past five years. Here, in my chilly, boxy old house I cook and clean. I grow herbs in the summer and fill rows of bird feeders in the winter. I make garish fifties-retro kitchen curtains and play with my cats. My life is simple and fairly uncomplicated at this point in my existence, and not at all conducive to crafting twisted tales.
In my younger days, when every event around me was a direct wound to my soul, when I was struggling to find both myself and anyone who’d date myself, I wrote much more morose material. Whether it carried the spark of genius–I doubt it. I suppose even then, my life held threads of joy, attachments both material and interpersonal that could pull me from whatever funk I at present wallowed in. These links to life obviously saved me from solitude and misery, but did they remove from me the chance for greatness? I’ll never know. For, despite my adolescent self’s best efforts, I managed to grow up fairly well adjusted.
Having a deficit of inner demons may not sound like it bodes well for one who writes of the dark, but the world is full of evil, torment and pain. It oozes from the pages of the paper every morning, glides from the pseudo-concerned voices of news anchors on a daily basis. It’s all there, ripe for the picking. I suppose in the end the dark doesn’t need to be my own, as long as I, in the end, own it.
What about you? What amount of happiness would you relinquish for a chance at pure genius?