I guess we should not be surprised, the myth of the tortured, starving artist is very strong in our culture. Even though I think it’s a dangerous and untrue notion, I do think that art and pain are deeply connected.
The majority of great writers have one thing in common: attempted suicide. How to explain that?
What about on a personal level? Sometimes, it seems like there is so much pain inside of myself and in the world that it is overwhelming. I mean, come on! When I was back in heaven and they explained what it would be like on earth, I must not have been listening. Or it was false advertising. Seriously. Do you ever feel like that?
So I’ve been thinking. Is pain necessary to art? Is pain necessary at all? Are we inviting more pain by pursuing an artistic endeavor?
A while ago, I read something by Osho that said (I paraphrase): "Pain is not here to make you miserable, it’s here to wake you up. When you are happy, content, you don’t move. Pain makes you aware, it makes you evolve. It is here to wake you up."
Honestly, that irritated me. I thought that was quite cruel of a mechanism. Then as the weeks went by I observed that there was more truth to it than I wanted to admit. Pain wakes us up. Pain makes us feel more deeply, have more compassion, be more connected. Otherwise, most of us would just sit on our butts drinking margarita. Pain is quite unequaled in it's capacity to crack my heart open more and more, allowing the gifts to flow through. And it marks the place to look at inside, to create something that comes from that deep authentic place. It leaves the breadcrumbs to explore deep in the forest and find our way back.
Of course, I can’t talk for those who are in extreme pain due to severe illness, abuse, poverty, etc. Nor would I ever suggest to anyone to voluntarily expose yourself to pain (better make that clear). But when pain is here, as uncomfortable as it is, it brings a gift. It helps a lot to find a way to have a use for pain. Whether it is painting, writing, assisting in the healing of others, or our own personal growth. So we have a channel to express the gifts awaken by pain.
Personally, I don’t think artists are in more pain because they are artists, or that being an artist destined you to a life of pain. I think simply artists tend to feel pain more deeply and express it more openly. When feeling emotions is part of your job description, you tend to get really good at it.
Artists feel and express pain, sadness, exaltation, and other “uncomfortable” emotions for all of us. For those who can’t or won’t, or are trying to find the way. Just like some are the hunters who go out and kill for everyone to eat. Artists are willing to go through the depth of human emotions and unconscious, and process it in service of all. True, just like some reckless hunters don’t come back from the hunt, some artists don’t make it back safely… but it is a necessary job for the community.
However, you don’t have to kill a lion to participate in feeding the community. You don’t have to write a bestseller or paint the Mona Lisa for your art to be of value. Just do your part in feeling, processing and expressing what arises in you, in any medium that feels good. As a service to all. No matter how insignificant it seems to you, even if you never show it to anyone. I can promise you it does make a difference, and it IS of service.