The sun is out today, the birds sing, the breezes grace treetops, and I would rather sleep. One cannot control depression so much as one cannot control addiction at its worst. The two are very similar in this matter; the addict sees the men with stuffed pockets, waiting to make their acquaintance, just as the depressed sees the shadow in the corner, stalking about the room. We try, we truly do, yet sometimes the sunny day that others see is simply not the same to us, no matter how hard we wish it be. And sadly, just as the addict, the depressed are far too often, whether intentional or not, pushed away for their downcast faces, their not continual gratitude and cheery disposition. I’ve written on this before, of course, about those “difficult” people we’d rather not spend time with, lest their “toxic” disorder drag us down as well, and so I won’t touch on it much. Rather, I’d like to write on this road I’ve lived, this road laden with those shadow stalkers, and this road that is shared by many, I believe.
You see, I came to England for the same reason I pursued my two bachelor degrees, to stretch my arms about the earth and absorb another’s writings, that I might achieve the ability to write what I am to write. For I’ve been put (out of more born duty than dreamt goal) to write a collection of novels that aim to achieve something somewhat different from the mass novels or writings in our current capitalism. Rather than focusing on the profit or success, catering to my current historical audience, both of which are far easier to write for than they’re let out to be, I am aimed along artistic, literary, and theological paths, of which are incredibly precise, complex, and not always of immediate popularity today. I think many independent game developers do this as well today, Frictional Games comes especially to mind with their redefining mechanics. I could also draw an example from Tolkien, who, during a time of modernist intricacies and cynicism, chose to write an elaborate faery tale in an even more elaborately designed world, none of which guaranteed any sort of financial or acknowledged success, despite receiving just such in his latter and post days. For Tolkien, myself, Frictional, and anyone else doing what drives them more personally, I think these sentiments could be deemed of an artistically entrepreneurial aim, where pragmatical popular use is set aside for a far more risky and far less endeavoured attempt at deep artistry. Perhaps it is the hipster sentiment of the artist.
In a way, this could be called the dreamer’s road, for the fools who dream, yet this is also the road ordained to me, not chosen or pursued by goal, but bestowed as life bestows its offering, its purpose. I’ve been criticised much here for attempting too much with my studies, wanting to write on too much, wanting to study too much, wanting to aim too high, too broad (as is the excuse made by the cynic), essentially wanting to dream, as though dreams are absurd and too much for reality’s sake. There is, of course, a pragmatic point in these criticisms, that attempting too much in something can lead to a burnout or lacking focus, particularly in writings. However, over the top, seemingly broad sights are exactly what I’m good at, and what got me here, what got me the funding for this whole year; I take a large bundle of various, mismatched flowers and tie them together into a perfectly arranged bouquet. For example, though I wish I had something less absurd to share, I’ve been somewhat torn on whether I’d like to continue studying marital counselling and theology, switch to paediatric medicine, or pursue a doctorate in epistolary studies, while continuing to develop a publishing company, when I finish here. These far flung apposing passions consume my attention, regardless of their mismatched proportions and first world issue, and yet I know if I bothered for the time and effort I could do them all. I believe anyone could do it all, could do quite anything, that dreams are not prejudice to any certain dreamer, yet I suppose I might be of few who would be mad enough to try them. I am, in every aspect of the phrase, a renaissance man, a broad reaching artistic entrepreneur — or perhaps just a madman. I am not out of choice, mind you, I did not choose to be this, I do not choose to see the broad-scape and paint every detail because I am just insane. I simply am and must. Perhaps it is simply my dyslexic mind to blame, for at least I’d have company with Da Vinci then. I find writers and artist often are this, for need of authoritative authorship and mere incredible interest. Goya, for instance, wrote,
“Painting, like poetry, selects in the universe whatever she deems most appropriate to her ends. She assembles in a single fantastic personage, circumstances and features which nature distributes among many individuals (even opposing each other). From this combination, ingeniously composed, results that happy imitation by virtue of which the artist earns the title of inventor and not of servile copyist.”
So, regardless of their opposing order, the painter, the poet, the renaissance man, takes all these mismatched points and assembles them together into a whole tapestry. It is what one must do, lest copyist be created. And yet, I have only received criticism for being this here, for doing what I do and being what I simply am and always have been, where my eagerness and educational audacity (for lack of better words) was once praised, here I am only discouraged and rejected. It has destroyed me.
Now, the reason I point all of this out is not because I’d like to simply explain myself, but because I recently went through an article on the often rough and depressing road of the entrepreneur, how failures and ditches often surround them, and, as I read through it, I found that the sentiment could also be pointed out, and perhaps even more so, to the person who is more artistic in their entrepreneurial endeavours, to the artistic entrepreneur. The current world is becoming far less renaissance driven and far less artistically inclined. Liberal arts programs (my own bachelors as an example) are disappearing because there is no clear pragmatic use for them, there is no obvious job lined up for the student with the English degree, and instead the trade school is taking its place, training workers to produce and create revenue. The English program is being relabelled as teaching with an emphasis and nothing more. The student who wants to study medicine alongside Shakespeare is nonsensical because it is too broad, too unfocused, and without an obvious connecting course. The dreamers who do not see the world through green papered arches are fools and the painter designing flying machines should stick to what sells. There is, of course, a logical reasoning behind all of this, I do not disclaim that, yet it’s also made the world a very difficult place for the person who isn’t so narrow minded, who wants to and is entirely able to tackle an entire swarm of endeavours and still be perfectly well. The artistic is deemed unuseful and the renaissance man is labeled a confused fool. Even the phrase “entrepreneur” is a slight undercut, for artistic risk is and always has been an incredibly risky business, which has either been especially penniless or unfathomably successful in its history. The artist, so to speak, was the first entrepreneur in a way. Now, the artistic entrepreneur seems to live in a foreign world set entirely against him.
These are the ditches and shadows that haunt us, the eerie road we walk along. I am most happy, organised, and successful when tackling a hundred unmatched things, when my metaphorical brain is swarming with an entire Time Vortex, both painted and dissected. True, sometimes it gets to be a bit much, sometimes the connecting lines are not strictly clear and the distance between Trenzalore and Earth is vague and lonely. However, it is still who I am, who all along this road are, and so it is where we must be, must be encouraged along. I am currently in a very deep ditch because I was knocked entirely off that road, criticised one too many times, rejected a teacher’s watering, reminded of past pains too acutely. (My last epistle made this all clear enough.) I am the sort of person who runs on being connected to others, and so when I do not have a close connection with someone else, when negativity shadows over me and the world sets its claws against me, I derail and am lost of all direction. Connections, after all, are often the roadmap for the chaotic visions: the dreams become nightmares without them. I am lost, without purpose, without aim, without care or use, and with a distain for my surroundings. And to add to it, I cannot trust another with it. I do not trust anyone in the same way I do not trust the sun to rise when I will rise: it is far too unreliable, far too insomniatic. No one is guaranteed, and even less act it, for that is what these stalkers do. I receive negative discouragement from teachers, and so I am drawn up negative connections, driven further off track. I am isolated from trusting relationships, swept into the gutter’s gloom, and so I am driven into a non-directional wander. Sometimes these are real, true solid poisonings, and sometimes they are the mere creations, the mere illusions of that lying stalker we call depression. Without a support we fall, just as the addict, just as the depressed. To be any sort of entrepreneur is by nature lonely, and without personal connections it is dark and so easily sad, so chaotically mad.
Depression is fearful, is like a cold ache that sits on the back of your skull, that hides within the bushes, hides in the shadows of others, hides in the daylight and the darkness, and is always watching and waiting for you. So much has fallen through the cracks, so many betrayals, so many cold shoulders, so many criticisms, so many failures and mishaps (for that is what an entrepreneurial nature is). And so it is only logical to be afraid, to fear, to worry that new people may determine the same monster that others falsely accused. The dragon must hide within his mountain. Depression is not a careless creature creeping about the floorboards, it is a meticulous stalker standing in every shadow and every glimmer of light, sending shivers of fear through the spine. Lewis, as usual, speaks my very feelings on the matter in relation to grief,
“No one ever told me that [it] felt so like fear.
I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.
The same fluttering in the stomach,
the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed.
There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me.
I find it hard to take in what anyone says.
Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting.
Yet I want the others to be about me.
I dread the moments when the house is empty.
If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
I’ve often featured Francisco Goya’s art in my posts, though I’ve yet to speak directly of him, and I believe this is the best time of ever. His images, you see, draw out the swallowing, the sinking feeling that is depression, that stalking fear. The reason of course being is, he knew it. Being closely linked into the Spanish court, both artist and politician (in a way), he was closely linked to how the society treated people, which is partially why he painted so much madness and death in the many wars of his era. He was also, however, fully deaf (by illness) the last half of his life, which often drew him into isolation, painting from his own mind, his own dream laden road. And, as war would, because of his work for the opposing side, he was eventually sent into total isolation and eventual self exile. So, a darkness became his work, especially in his Black period. They were created for no one but himself, the spewing breath of his soul, in simple need of relief. No societal desires, no political necessities, or pragmatic use, but the mere artistic vomit. His final paintings are, therefore, deemed “in effect the most extreme manifestation of the growing misunderstanding and estrangement between modern society and the artist.” They express this void and chasm that we may find ourselves within.
The artistic entrepreneur, I fear, is often driven into the shadows of his irrelevance from the world about him, from the mere course of life. The peaceful man is spat at in the war, the sad man is shun away by the joyful, the poet is made melancholy, the painter made deaf, the lonely man made alone, and so on. The artist and the depressed are intertwined in this endeavour. The depressed are far too often treated like the leper, disconnected from the world they need connecting with. The artist seems as well. They are deemed too difficult, too demanding; and yet, the truth is, if they ask anything of anyone, then they have done so by digging through a terrifying tunnel of fear, they have fared the stalking nightmares, and reached through the darkly veil. It was not easy for them. The artistic entrepreneur is not facing his sights lightly, he is aware of their giant frights and knows their impossibilities, for that is who he is, that is what he must face. The artists are those whose souls and hearts have been sweated onto canvas napkins, whose dark corners and bright pupils have been smeared along a typewriter’s gears. I write in this darkness because I have a need to, because my walls would be my canvas if paper were not abound. Better all this than bloodied wrists and drugged vomit. For though stalkers may surround me, though invisible they may be, creeping along those gutter tracks, I walk along this path still evermore, always aware of its tracking eyes watching my dripping ink.
- Francisco Goya, Plague Hospital, 1800
- C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed,
- Francisco Goya, The Colossus, 1810-1812
- Francisco Goya, Self Portrait with Dr Arrieta, 1820
- Fred Licht, Goya, 2001