Young poets often believe that it takes unhappiness to create ‘art.’ You must drink too much, do drugs, have a sadly aching life. Be as miserable & crazy as Poe, as suicidal as Hemingway, as dysfunctional as Sexton. Sometimes, they even hear this from their seniors.
It’s NOT true. Happiness fosters not only art, but (obviously) life. It is — and this only a perhaps — possibly easier to sit down and write if you’re already miserable, and your everyday life holds no allure. Certainly on days when the weather is idyllic, and there are birds at all the feeders, and leftovers I needn’t mess with, it’s easy not to write. But when I think of the times my life was splintered into shards & fragments, I didn’t write. I simply couldn’t.
Is sorrow ‘good material’…? Maybe. But so is joy, folks. And if you look east, to art in Asia, there is art to be made from (and found in) each element of our days.
Yesterday was a good day (today not so much… ). Both my wonderful sons called — one on Skype, the other on FaceTime — and I could see their handsome faces. My perfect grandson & wonderful DIL were on view, as well. And a niece & nephew came by, and my sister-in-law is in town. Family!
So what do I feel like? Writing. Poetry. About the crows calling outside, about the way the early autumn light falls like silk across the floor. About whatever.
In other words — art does NOT require suffering. Nor does your beginner’s heart, dear ones. Happiness is just as ‘creative,’ and a lot more fun. Especially if genuine.
Now there’s a question: how do we define ‘authentic,’ ‘genuine’ happiness? Is it the transient pleasure of a perfect cup of tea? (no, even though I sometimes think so) Is it the giddy pleasure of my grandson doing the GG head wiggle we share in greeting? Again, no — despite my full heart when I see him tossing his head left-to-right.
Nor is it any other single thing, really — no matter how momentous. In my tentative beginner’s heart opinion, I’m defining ‘genuine’ happiness as that which wells up from a life well-lived. I’m pretty sure that even in the midst of his great sorrow over Tibet, the Dalai Lama is happy. Same for Pope Francis, again in spite of his acute awareness of the desperate poverty around the world. And of course Desmond Tutu, even though he deplores the racial injustice here in the US and elsewhere.
What will ‘make’ us happy is our own life, ultimately. Which is what these various wise leaders — and others — have said for many many years. Being kind to those around us; refusing to participate in inequity; cherishing the fragile young, old, the poor and unfortunate. THAT will ‘make’ us happy, because it becomes part of our every day, an attitude of happy, if that makes sense.
And then? Well, you can write poetry. Honest. Because happiness… well, it feeds your inner artist. And that’s more than enough.