Monday, August 22, 2011

The Artist: Creativity and Mortality

The artist:
speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty and pain...and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts: to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear which binds men to each other, which binds together all humanity -- the dead to the living and the living to the unborn." ~ Joseph Conrad
The idea that the living are a conduit between the unborn and the dead is explored in Robert Pogue Harrison's The Dominion of the Dead. The author conveys how we strive to make meaning as we move through life and that the awareness of death defines our human nature.  "Whether we are conscious of it or not we do the will of the ancestors: our commandmens come to us from their realm; their precedents are our law; we submit to their dictates, even when we rebel against them." To be human is to relate to that which is buried, that which has come before, since culture is built on what has come before.
"To mortalize oneself means to learn how to live as a dying creature, or better, to learn how to make of one's mortality the foundation of one's relations to those who live on, no less than to those who have passed away. To cope with one's mortality means to recognize its kinship with others and to turn this kinship in death into a shared language."
A slightly different notion is that an artist mortalizes themselves by creating. They make literal the idea. They struggle with the limitations of medium in order to make the physical world speak in the language of the spirit.

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