The Tortured Artist, the Tortured We

They say about the tortured artist that there is a link between the art and the mania, the art and depression.  A toxic fuel coarsening through veins exhilarated but eroding quick.

Would they trade it in if they had the chance?  Burn clean and long, not dark and fast?  Would some steal back from the brink, push violently against their demons and sacrifice what could be their only chance at greatness?  Trash it for some safe, sterilized version of happiness?

And if genius entails depression, requires it of the otherwise meek and average, and if we find ourselves depressed, could the converse be true, could it entail genius? Or is there a middle ground, a godforsaken hell of a place where one can recognize the great, catch its fleeting glimpse, feel for just a moment the thrill of life’s defining, dangerous edges, but where we also know inside we can never retreat and fully leave the normal world behind, nor can we keep the faith required to let loose and really live, whether it means living or dying?

And why any of it?  What was so wrong with hunting and gathering, using simple tools employed for survival, survival just as its own basic, but critical, reward?  Is it the propagation of the species informing and driving us to keep on keeping on?

If I suspect that happiness—real, sustained happiness—will only be found in not just propagation but in all of its physical, emotional, and philosophical trappings (trappings here used loosely, and most positively), then why the impulse to retain my darker side, to defend it and hide it from this other world, to use it to damn that which we were quite possibly designed to live for?

Or is this wanting to breed, perversely manifested and built into me by evolution, giving me no choice but to suffer the questions and rusty mechanics of life—literally seeming to say make art or die, or make cute little chubby drooling things so you can live?


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