Tuesday, 8 December 2009

MY suffering's greater than yours, and I have the pills and paintings to prove it.

What is 'suffering'? How does one define a concept that can be embedded in so many different forms? Creativity is an undoubtable outlet for 'suffering', as for every type of suffering, there will be a creative outlet of some kind. That word "suffering" covers all manner of sins.

Most would say, 'Oh she/he's having such a hard time right now, she/he's been really suffering'. Does that mean that to suffer is just to endure a rubbish time in our lives, when there's a chocolate strike on or we've just lost our job? Or is it something that has always been with us, and that 'hard time', when it surfaces was just a gremlin waiting to pounce? Let's take the Dr Johnson view for a second. A Dictionary definition would read something like: the endurance of pain, trauma, distress, agony, torment and similarly fun-filled words.

However I believe that an embedded mental distress of a person, such as depression, melancholia, schizophrenia and other psychoses are more empathetic forms of suffering; (after all, everyone can say they've been a bit depressed at some point can't they?). If we take ‘Bridget Jones’ as the embodiment of the pain of 30something, single women everywhere, it’s easy to relate to the mental anguish of this eternal trooper. After all, haven’t we all been let down by a man, guzzled too many drinks and smoked ourselves into oblivion on more than one occasion?The point is, the way she (as so many of us do), picks herself up again, joins a gym, gets a better job, and basically improves her life after Daniel unceremoniously dumps her for the’ American stick insect’, is a prime (if rather inane) example of how her suffering stimulates her to better herself.

It is mostly irrelevant though, whether the root of one's suffering comes from within (such as a suicidal urge); or an afflicted pain, for instance, a close friend's death. The point is you are suffering. It is this negativity, which we draw from to stoke the fires of creativity. Yet I'd say that certain types of suffering run to certain types of creativity. If we glance at mental distress, like chronic depression - this appears to be catnip for budding writers. After all, Sylvia Plath made her name with 'The Bell Jar', and Susanna Kaysen succeeded in being patronized by the angelic Angelina Jolie, and waify Winona Ryder, in the hit film 'Girl, Interrupted'. (A totally awesome book and film by the way). Many writers have admitted to being positively influenced by a negative incident, which has improved their work. For example, for those of you who have never read that cult classic, the incredible yet insanely violent and sexually graphic novel 'American Psycho', (the film of which is tame in comparison), then I guess you're not familiar with the twisted mind of it's author Bret Easton Ellis. This brilliant freak also wrote 'Lunar Park'. At the time just before it's completion, his lover Michael Wade Kaplan, died suddenly at the age of 30. Kaplan's death hit Ellis pretty hard, yet the mid-life crisis which followed, Ellis described as being a 'big catalyst' in finishing 'Lunar Park', adding 'a new layer of wistfulness and melancholy to the writing that had not been there before.'

This is obviously just the tip of the iceberg; writing is just one form of creativity. Think of all the songs that have been written by people on the point of a breakdown, (Doherty would never have been heard of), or the films inspired by true, autobiographical events! Need I even mention the art? Come on, would I really be going out on a limb here to say that well over 50% of art produced these days is being influenced by a negative stimulation?

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