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Image by Robert Marchessault

The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography — Federico Fellini

Draw into yourself all sensations of everything created, fire and water, dry and moist, imagining that you are everywhere, on earth, in the sea, in the sky, that you are not yet born, in the maternal womb, adolescent, old, dead, beyond death. If you embrace in your thought all things at once, times, places, substances, qualities, quantities, you may understand God.”― GIORDANO BRUNO

“Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and song and laughter? Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and the beauty of flesh and the living colors of the earth and sky and sea? Why am I afraid to love, I who love love?” — Eugene O’Neill

As a young man, I remember being puzzled by the idea that an artist must suffer. But why, I asked. Why can’t we just express the beauty we see. It seemed an unnecessary punishment for choosing a worthy life.

I still think it’s a simplistic view of artists and how they function.

Artists are trying to grow more human by growing their vision of life. The more deeply they perceive, the more deeply they question, the more human they become and the more they can offer the world. We need people like that in all fields who have depth and vision.

In my own life I suffered as I tried to live a life that could be considered normal in my particular milieu. But I also suffered in relationships, in choosing a life suited to me, in trying to understand why I seemed to fit nowhere.

Did the pain I felt supply the impetus I needed to dig deep enough to resolve these conflicts, or did the eventual resolutions come by pure chance? I think I did get lucky, but I can’t discount a combination of other factors. I was a continual malcontent until I somehow arrived at a marriage and a lifestyle that suited my truest nature, but if I had died at age forty I would have lived my whole life on the surface of myself.

Just like the tree in a dust storm, I gradually developed the “strength to withstand.” The second half of my life has been devoted to creation, but the hardiness I took on in those early years became an asset in later years.

I still think it’s a cliche to say an artist must suffer, but it’s also true that life’s lessons don’t come easy for anyone. Having gone through a good number of challenges can render you more kind, more understanding and forbearing. Everyone is suffering in life, you’ll notice, even if it is suffering from an absence of challenges.

It’s painful not to grow. It’s a kind of travail to live in an overly protected state.

There are certain people we look to for guidance — the priest, the guru, the artist even. It behooves those folks, if they take their metier seriously, to know their deeper selves, their truest selves, antisocial or not, beautiful or not. That requires some digging, that requires weathering upheavals and self made catastrophes, that requires uncovering a level of humanness we never see in polite society.

When you stand shockingly naked to yourself, you’ll begin to form a vision of what it means to be human. You’ll start to find compassion for all of us who are struggling with living on this planet. Your heart will grow into its true role.

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