The greatest problem with art, especially what could be conceived as “great art”, is its association with sadness and depression, the frustration of the spirit. It is common knowledge today, that creativity can only flourish in sacrifice, in the denial of happiness, and any works of art denuded of this existential terror, any artistic products of a happy mind, are vain and superficial.
But this perception presents an interesting quandary: art is a mirror to life, and, like all mirrors, it can distort, as much as illuminate. It can inform reality, and thus form it, change it. Therefore, art can have a tremendous impact in our lives. In that respect, there is no greater hypocrite than the archetypal unhappy artist.
Creativity is nothing if not an instinct, an overpowering urge to stoke our inner fires into a luminous pyre that burns all our self doubts, all those things that keep us small and insignificant, and kindles the same flame in those around us; so, together, we can proudly illuminate this part of the cosmos that we inhabit. In order for artists to be the conduit for this transformation, though, they will need to envisage the change they want to bring upon the world. A blackened, tarnished mirror, no matter how beautifully made, will never reflect the starlight.
And thus, creators of art need to be conscious of their choice: will they strive to cherish the light in the world, to amplify the happiness, the joie de vivre that is humanity’s birthright? Or will they let their art be a hymn to gloom and despair?
That said, of course, we need to be careful not to censor the darker side of our creativity, as it is an integral part of the spectrum of human expression. Our lives are, after all, a beautiful mosaic of laughter and tears, of fear and its conquest, while in the background Time and Death sing their haunting hymn to impermanence. In that context, we need art to ground us, to remind us that sadness is as integral to the human experience (and as temporary) as happiness, to take the edge off our existential agony.
Art can be lighthearted and, at the same time, deep and profound. It can bring our deepest fears and sorrows to light and thus deprive them of their power over our psyche. It can open a small door for the ineffable to escape from the world of ideas into reality. So let us make art a bright, polished mirror, through which we can look at ourselves and see life in its beautiful, magnificent entirety. Let us make art real.