Sunday, October 21, 2012

Art and Madness?

Van Gogh cut off his ear.
Sylvia Plath committed suicide.

Numerous entertainers have overdosed on drugs–accidentally or otherwise.

Shakespeare wrote of madness in Macbeth, and hinted about it elsewhere.

Edgar Allen Poe was questionably depressed or bipolar.

Some scientists believe the connection is clear–where there is creativity, there is the potential for madness. One European study linked the same genetic mutation that insights creativity to schizophrenia.

It certainly seems that the creators of beautiful musical masterpieces like Mozart or Beethoven or breathtaking art like Picasso or Monet have a special vision or a different type of connection to another world. Some say it is because God is always speaking, and they are taking the time or have the ability to listen.

And of course there is the drug connection too. Do true creatives try and self-medicate with alcohol, heroin, or cocaine? Does their propensity toward drugs stem from wanting to expand their already wider ability to see the world in a different way–or a need to quiet the “voices” telling them what to write, paint, or sing.

Or do artists simply remove more of the social restraints that we and society have put in place from a very young age. We are a civilized nation, each of us fitting neatly into our roles and polite mores that have been dictated since our births.

Freud used “talking therapy” to get to what he considered to be the root of people’s problems. He asked that the filters be removed, even if it was momentarily, and to free associate, and say the first things that pop into our heads–even if they seemed crazy or frightening. Wild things were said! New discoveries were made about deep and mysterious problems. We would never say these things in normal everyday conversation–people would think we are….

What if we all tried to keep the filters down a bit. I’m not talking about the ones that keep us out of jail, but the ones that keep us from being embarrassed, or saying what we really feel, or doing what we honest-to-God want to do without the worry of hurting someone, disappointing someone, or being afraid and doing it anyway. Maybe that is the only difference from the creative geniuses and everyone else.

Is creativity merely the ability to keep these filters down? Maybe those who can control them are lucky. They can write or draw or make music–or in some cases, all these things, and put the filters back in place when they need to function in a social or familial situation. Are the poor souls who are locked away and forever confused between reality and another world simply lacking the filters at all?

At this point the jury is still out. Not all schizophrenics are artistic or creative, in fact some are simply and sadly paralyzed by what they experience. Not all madness is schizophrenia, and certainly not all artists are mad.

Some days I wonder if we are not all mad, but not properly categorized yet.

VIA Dea Lenihan

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