Death And The Artist

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“When we ask why each analysis comes upon the death experience so often and in such variety, we find, primarily, death appears in order to make way for transformation. The flower withers around its swelling pod, the snake sheds its skin, and the adult puts off his childish ways. The creative force kills as it produces the new. Every turmoil and disorder called neurosis can be seen as a life and death struggle in which the players are masked.

What is called death by the neurotic mainly because it is dark and unknown is a new life trying to break through into consciousness; what he calls life because it is familiar is but a dying pattern he tries to keep alive.

— James Hillman

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Should I say, that I had turned my back on the so-called normal world for a while, because I was trying to find the green fuse that drives the flower as Dylan Thomas said? That I was trying to find the deep place where life flows as Rilke said? That I wouldn’t mind admitting some of those strange angels that DH Lawrence talks about, because what would be most lovely of all is if I could ‘yield myself and be borrowed’. Should I say that barring any further interruptions that I was really hoping to be able to write something?

And sometimes I think that apart from having an inner life, it is a necessity to fulfil the creative instinct. And sometimes I think writing is where introverts go wild(and run free like an animal in the wild untamed forest of their own imaginal life). Or bring out whatever is buried deep within themselves…

— Jon Wilson

When I was thirty years old Krishnamurti told me I had to die to my past. I puzzled over his poetic way of pointing to the importance of letting go, of living in the present and letting life happen.

Destruction and creation are two sides of the same coin. Letting go clears space for something new to appear. The artist learns to identify how holding on to pretty creations prevents something deeper and better from emerging.

Life follows art.

It’s almost funny to me now how I tried to stop my hard won life in France from self destructing. First, friends from the States came for a visit and refused to leave. That was a an expensive burden. I went over a cliff in my car, escaping death by a hair. My brother stole the inheritance I counted on to finish paying for our house. The trash pickup mysteriously stopped. A tick bite gave me Lyme’s disease. As confirmed introverts, our B&B business was a torture to both of us. Friends in the village started dying or moving away. I ran out of art materials and couldn’t afford to buy more. The bank was threatening foreclosure.

I refused to see the signs.

It was amazing, looking back, at all the signs — shouts, really — from the universe I wouldn’t listen to. I wanted to stay in France. It was home. From my present distance I now see how the life we created there followed the very same principles as any creation.

I now have the perspective of having created another life, since the future that was being born would not be denied. The process overwhelmed my resistance to it. Looking at the two lives side by side, I have to say the present one is an advance on the soul level. Yes, I miss the home we created in France. Of course I do, but I, we, couldn’t go any further with it creatively or in any sense of deepening our fated human deepening.

Destruction of the old was followed by creation of something new, not just something new but something unexpected and deep in a way that opened new ideas, experiences and new energies.

I should have known this from being a long time artist, but at the time I couldn’t see it. I went through it like any rube, blindsided by the process.

I draw the lesson that if we are to create, whether it’s art or a new life, we will need to work with the forces of destruction as well as our need to birth something new. I’ll try to remember that.

I made the process more painful than it needed to be.

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