You’re right, it’s easy to romanticize this particular idea so it’s good we have some research to back up our claims. The actual depressive episode itself is not very conducive to creative outbursts; that seems straightforward to understand. Nevertheless, I’m not convinced that creativity has to come from ‘elated’ moods that follow. Many artists use the feelings of sorrow and longing as the outline of their work, exploring and projecting their emotions onto their metaphorical canvas. Their mood certainly doesn’t have to be one of elation – though perhaps more ’stable’ than one of manic-depression. Further, the word ‘creativity’ here would be useful to define. One person’s creative work is another’s drudgery. My intuition is that for many people who deal with intense unsettling feelings, the work that results does not feel terribly ‘creative,’ though the end product may be original. The feelings of Toska do not inspire the creativity, they are the creativity. It’s only a matter of channeling the complex, multi-layered emotions into some medium other people can consume. “Let it all out,” if you will.
To address your last, more direct, point, I want to clarify something. You paraphrase my question to you as,
..is feeling Toska sporadically, and intensely, and often, worth giving up your own definition of happiness?
I think you are jumping to conclusions here. I don’t think you have to give up any feelings of happiness at all – just spice them up with some freshly ground Toska. A ‘fulfilling’ life, a life that you would be willing to repeat, shouldn’t be prescribed as one that is unequivocally happy. In a sense, I am directly opposing what many Buddhists, Hindus, and Epicureans seek – a life of pure nirvana, free from pain. Is this what we really want? To just feel happy and content all the time?
I think pain, both emotional and physical, is the spice of life. Without it, our lives may be perfectly nutritious, and satisfying – but ultimately, dull. To quote the captain of the spaceship Axiom, from the film Wall-E: ‘I don’t want to survive, I want to live.’
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