Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Art of Pain

We learn through pain and turmoil. But if your artists are good enough, that pain and turmoil doesn't have to be a direct experience. Instead of (or as well as) confessing to priests and psychologists, what if we started telling our stories to artists who could tell them for us? Through plays, books, music, paintings, dance, we can see what is going on in other people's lives. If the only stories we hear are the ones experienced by those who know how to tell them, a lot gets hidden. 

The challenge is trust. We tell our stories to close friends or religious leaders, or we pay someone to listen. The expectation is that that is where the story will stay. When we interact with people, we assume they aren't going to post every detail online or in a book. We would definitely be less relaxed if everyone was wearing Google Glass with a live feed. We wouldn't be as honest. I have always wondered about Sports stars having awkward friendships knowing that tell all books are just over the horizon when people retire.

Humans have wonderful imaginations. Fiction can create entire worlds that get to the truth of a matter in this world. We like to think we are unique snowflakes. Instead I think we are unique combinations of very common flavours. We just don't how common some of our struggles are because we keep them to ourselves. Artists should be able to listen to stories and be able to squeeze out the truth juice while leaving the identity pulp behind. In that way they can protect the fragile bits of us that don't want people to know about our deep dark secrets. We may then find that aggregated, our deep dark secrets aren't actually uncommon at all. We can also talk 'in abstract' about art to people without them knowing we are struggling with those issues ourselves. A great example is 'The Humans' by Matt Haig. This beautiful, funny, piece of art captures some of the difficulties likely faced by many and does it with a sense of hope that doesn't trivialise the problems.

Just listening is a difficult art in itself. I tend to like practical solutions. That is what attracted me to the Yoga I do. If you aren't happy, there is a pretty simple checklist of things to do. Are you exercising? Are you eating right? Are you relaxing properly? Are you breathing properly? Are you thinking about things in a positive way? Sometimes though, 'it's not about the nail'. The person talking isn't actually looking for a solution. They are looking for someone who can listen. The artist can just listen, and then reflect back through their work what people are feeling.

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