The Romantic or The Playful: a conversation about art and happiness

Posted by @ 10:20 pm on May 8th, 2010

In response to this excellent post, Sean Lovelace said this:

    I detest the write-or-I will-die-school.

    Why can’t people write an intellectually stimulating activity, as intellectual play?

    It has to always be ink-as-blood thing?

    I don’t get it.

I’m going to suture in my (slightly edited) response here, as well. I would love input from all.

    Part of me thinks the art-as-blood/obsessional/devotional/romantic behavior and self-propagating myth is more akin to religious fervor, and dangerous.

    Part of me thinks the art-as-play behavior and lesser myth is not at all dangerous, and mostly a cause, or more a cause, of general happiness.

    I then jump to: what kind of art has risen out of each style of art making? And most of the books & films that I love and am most impressed & inspired by rose out of the first style (although many have risen out of the second style, e.g. Kurt Vonnegut), the potentially dangerous style.

    The latter, at its worst, can seem a bit objectified, like entertainment.

    I hold these two opposing styles in my head at once, have practiced both, and yet the one that leads to more general happiness and well-being is the latter. The one that leads to more art made, potentially better art made, is the former.

    Yet: the idea that I need reminding of most often, mostly self-initiated, is that ‘We are here on earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you any different.’ and that being a kind and loving and curious, i.e. happy person, is the most important goal that I have. Which doesn’t play well with the idea of the obsessional art making.

    Maybe this is why I revere Stanley Kubrick so much. The more and more I know about his lifestyle, the more and more I respect and admire his ability to be devoted to his art and devoted to his family.

    It’s the little-bit-every-day style vs. the orgiastic/ecstatic style. Peaks and valleys vs. steady rate. Tortoise and the hare?

    I find that this applies to romance, and romantic relationships, too. The myth of all-devouring romance, I think, is really dangerous. I’ve been there, done that, and it does intensify living in a way that is unparalleled, but like an Ecstasy trip, has a painful and numbing descent and valley.

    This is all toward a larger discussion that I’m trying to clear up in my own head about how best to make art, personally, and how best to be happy.


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