When the beast haunts us, we seek refuge within our minds. Sometimes the mind digresses, and we seek the solace of something to knit our memories together, hiding worries under grey material that has turned cottony. When the beast refuses to leave, we become locked in a prison. The gatekeeper may refuse to release the keys. When the beast gets too strong, the gatekeeper may decide to kill its power. It is a death that can be marked a murder/suicide.
The beasts inside us all…I do believe that there is a degree of this in many creative types. I’ve oft said that the Greats (if they can be described in such an elementary way) are plagued by the beast. What is the beast? That internal voice that can catapult one through the elevator’s glass ceiling to reach the extraordinary … or, it can take one hostage until there is nothing left of the original being.
Van Gogh went walking with his beasts into golden fields and starry nights. Pessoa entertained his beasts by giving them names, allowing them a voice to sing their peculiar song. Hemingway gave his beasts a tip of the hat and a drink. It’s funny, as I think of all the artist’s names, the only woman I can recall is Sylvia Plath.
Depressive states seem to plague many artists. I used to believe that if you didn’t succumb to a blue period, your work was probably too sunny and base. This thought is of course bunk, but interesting none the less, considering I formed it at age 13.
Tonight, while reading although of course you end up becoming yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace** I couldn’t help but think of this teenage analogy. David Lipsky starts this five-day biography with an afterword. The afterword address what the DFW fan/reader basically wants to know: why did this young literary giant, David Foster Wallace, kill himself. The answer is not easy. My Lucy (or was it Sally) 5 cent pop psych analysis: David Foster Wallace was so hyper-aware, so brilliant, that sensory overload and perfection easily gave too much power to that internal beast.
Beyond beasts (or perhaps, in conjunction) there are ghosts. Ghosts may seem macabre to many, however, I believe there is a comfort in the idea embracing the other worldly. Kim Hysesoon discusses ghosts in her brilliant small press book, Princess Abandoned. Hyesoon, whom I’ve just recently discovered via online literary blogs, is a feminist writer/poet/professor from South Korea. In this work, she discusses the need to connect, to hear, the ghosts (spirits) of the Abandoned. The Abandoned cannot be internalized without connecting to the ghosts. Once one hears (listens) to the ghosts (spirits), the internal (feminine) can finally begin. Hyesoon explains that if the female poet can embrace the ghosts, embrace death, then the feminine can find strength to deal with those voices that haunt us in life.
One doesn’t need to be an artist to understand the fragility of life. There is a fine balance in trying to see light when the sky has become black with threatening storms. Embracing death helps to free our grip from the edge in order to learn to float with the deep. However, even upon finding a comfort, there is no guarantee that we won’t grow tired and sink. Hopefully, the edge of reason will still be there to touch (to comfort) so we may catch our breath.
**I stumbled upon the David Foster Wallace book today at a used bookstore. It hadn’t been on my radar until I read about it on CB’s blog.