Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The relationship between madness, suffering, and creativity.

In my humble opinion; madness leads to suffering, suffering stimulates creative and emotional impulses, therefore suffering enhances artistic creation. I stumbled across a quote which, to me, really supports this hypothesis:

"That schizophrenia is for some people a prerequisite to the creation of their works is rendered very probable through the coincidence of the chronological progress of the development of the psychosis, the change in the manner of their perception and activity, and the change of style in their creations."

This statement by Karl Jasper is relatively advanced. The 'nuts' who filled the 'nuthouses' were retrospectively misunderstood; particularly where their art was concerned. In 'Madness: A brief history', a particularly interesting book by R. Porter, I found several interesting theories which lend substance to this idea. Such as:

"Science turned insanity into pathology and the rise of the asylum set the mad poet or artist at growing risk of being put under lock and key, for society's own good or even his own. "

Porter describes a man named Carkesse who was one of the untouchables that suffered just such treatment:

"James Carkesse, an imprisoned clerk in 1679, wrote a collection of verse releasing his repression. He claimed physicians are the ones who are crazy, but Bedlamites are sane.
'Says he who with more wit than the Doctor had - Oppression will make a wise man mad'".

Carkesse protested his sanity. What was taken for lunacy in him was actually poetic inspiration. Artistic endeavor, now considered to be one of the best outlets for a troubled mind, was in the time of James Carkesse taken to be a symptom or source for Carkesse's lunacy. His ultimatum was to stop writing his poetry or remain under lock and key.

Now I know that I have made bold statements and thrown out wild generalizations and accusations, but one which I'm sure at least some people agree with, is to say that those who are declared 'mad' may simply be just a misunderstood minority. Almost all who are deemed insane, do not think that they are, yet just because they are a small demographic, their word counts as less. In just the same way that one may call a dead body 'art', just because they are the only person that thinks so - are they wrong?

A particularly amusing line I found in the same volume, seemed to concur with this:

If civilization is disordered, what right has it to pass judgement on the insane? Regarding his committal to Bedlam, the Restoration playwright Nathaniel Lee reputedly declared: 'They called me mad, and I called them mad, AND DAMN THEM, THEY OUTVOTED ME!'.

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