“One of my favorite quotes on solitude is by Emil Cioran, ‘Alone, even doing nothing, you do not waste your time. You do, almost always, in company. No encounter with yourself can be altogether sterile. Something necessarily emerges, even if only the hope of some day meeting yourself again.’ “
From a letter to Cristian Mihai
That quote brought a little moisture to my eyes, I must admit. I have often felt this same pull to fighting the lonely fight. I do not believe that artists need to struggle for their art, but they are sensitive to the struggle of being a human in a way that separates us from the proverbial rats (I mean this in the sense that it feels like a swarm when you are not in its midst) that ‘just go through the motions.’ We feel the constant battle and make a conscious choice to keep feeling it.
Not for ourselves, necessarily–though the gamut of artist personalities surely includes vanity–but for the fight, for solving problems in our way.
We don’t need to sell things. We don’t need money or even food or sleep some days. But we do all of those things because we can keep coming back for more art. I think this is where some artists get upset at others that might have more financial success. They might feel like the successful one is ‘cheating,’ that not only are they fighting that internal struggle, but they took the fight outside and are winning that one too.
I disagree that it is cheating, but it is a different type of battle, more complete. For the true battle of art lies outside the self, amongst people. The people are who ‘own’ art, if it can be ‘owned’ at all. Van Gogh might have been several hundred years ahead of his time, but he kept going, unaware of this fact. Stephen King might have brilliant financial success in this life, but will his work stand the test of hundreds of years of time like Philip K. Dick’s probably will or even the late Bradbury’s?
I don’t know the answer. But they all continued working. They all kept and keep making things, telling stories.
The choice to feel and to work and to pace late at night, turning a phrase over and over through several glasses of wine and the still night air and maybe nothing but a dog or a mirror to hear–this choice is only the beginning of being an artist. Non-artists, however, have a thing or two to learn about ‘being’ from artists.
Some of us forget the importance of thoughtful, well-composed correspondence. I’ve only recently struck up a conversation with the avid Cristian Mihai. But the progress is fulfilling thus far. Cheers, mate.
This one is for Ray Bradbury. Both a fan of imagination, and a wielder of its lantern. May his work continue to shine light on the human condition even with the passing of his physical body. To art and to magic…