Before we romanticize, lets speak some science. The link between creativity, in its more raw form of coming up with novel ideas frequently, and mental illness is an established one. However, your interpretation is ever so slightly off. This correlation is typical between manic-depressives (bipolar disorder), and not depressives (unipolar). The evidence for the former is almost overwhelming in case studies from history (Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Beethoven, Mozart, Vincent van Gough, to name a few), and even from just a quick Google scholar search of the topic. The unipolar depression topic is one up for debate on the merits of whether it should be considered a separate disorder altogether, or if it should be considered on the spectrum of bipolar disorder. However, what does remain clear from the evidence is that the creative process does not occur during the depressive episodes themselves. It comes from the elated moods that follow them. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. And it’s a bit easier to express from the romantic spin of the conversation..
The tortured soul saunters the emotional playground of the human cavity. The wandering above a comfortable height, and down beneath a comfortable bank, flutters the psyche with a variety of human experience to pick and play from. When swimming below, the pressure of existence and the worthlessness that follows does not contextualize itself in usefulness to produce art. It pokes. It slices. It bleeds. And the blood flows as relentless as gravity forces a feather to fall. It drowns up the emotional void with a sludge of despair, draining and swallowing. A sudden blissful gasp of air to see the sun shining above you, the clouds floating gleefully in the blue sea sky, offers up a sense of temporary release. Here, you are free to float in the sea of emotions’ past below you. You have a necessary push to express the volcanic spectrum of possibilities, ultimately realizing it won’t be there for long. The outlet becomes a channel for the whirlwind explosion that rumbled below clogged up all the while.
So now we’ve cleared up the ordering of the creative release, lets discuss another point you bring up, and that’s about worth. Is going through the despair worth the potential creation you can output? It’s difficult to determine really. Ultimately, it’d be determined by the artist / do-er themselves. To go back to the discussion we had last month about the pursuance of originality in art, we concluded that the journey of the artistic adventure is the ultimate reward. Realizing and internalizing this as a way of living, however, is not simple. And especially not simple when swimming with mountains of pressure weighing you down sporadically Tuesday through Friday. People get lost, and to some degree understandably so, in finding a meaning of their outputs, often through the judging eyes of their peers, or their targeted audiences. And here, a ruthless world of worth arises. For all the Justin Vernon’s out there, there are thousands of “untalented” bipolar artists. Are their lives not fulfilling if not successfully distilled into acclaimed form? The other layer of this discussion is the layer of what we want to describe as a fulfilling life. You chose to use the word ‘happiness’ to define this fulfillment. And it gets thrown around a lot to coincide with states of being, from moksha, a buddhist, Eastern religious concept of eternal content-ness, to a general feeling of euphoria, achieved by sex, laughter, drugs, in it’s more raw sense. It’s become so loaded that I don’t know how to really define it myself – so I won’t define it just yet. But to answer your question more directly, is feeling Toska sporadically, and intensely, and often, worth giving up your own definition of happiness? No. It’s fucking miserable, and I’d like to hope I’d pursue my artistic desires regardless of what they produce, and for whatever audience that would drown me with boo’s or cheers.
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