Are you familiar with Daniel Johnston? You may already be, but I’m relatively late to the game and have been totally feeling him all week. He’s been an indie darling since the early 80’s, an outlandishly creative and troubled soul that illustrates the delicate balance of beauty and mental illness. It’s another Syd Barrett/Roky Erickson tale. I guess a cautionary tale of LSD and the creative.
-If you have the time, this free streaming doc is ace.
-If you only have time for a handful of songs this is good too:
Maybe it’s because I’ve worked with shizoaffected students throughout my tenure as a music educator. Maybe it’s because I’ve struggled with mental illness in my life. At times depression and anxiety have felt like they were closing in on my sanity like the trash compactor scene in Star Wars Episode IV. Plato talked about a “divine madness” as the progenitor of “inspired” creativity, but it’s dangerous (and exhilarating) balancing on the precipice of sanity. It the artist who feels deeply and is able to communicate from that deepness a resounding gong into a fellow human’s soul. In the words of Anaïs Nin, “Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.” (The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947) The artist is the Charon ferryman navigating the Stigian wastes of emotion. “I do not deny that the world needs priests to remind us that we shall all one day die; but I insist that the world also needs another kind of priest, the poet, to remind us that we are not dead yet.” – Chesterton
In the Jeff Tweedy interview I linked to a couple weeks ago, Tweedy weighs in on this topic as well. I was surprised to see myself holding the same positions. Creativity is an act of the unconscious mind combining two or more things together. Or as Einstein possibly puts better, “Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.” All creativity is God-given but I don’t see it happening in the auto-didactic way that many speak about. If God gave us our minds and hearts, then it is secondary causation, but still God-given. The past years I have tried to reign in the “madness” aspect of the creative process, simplifying it for myself and trying to help others, and there are a couple different helpful angles of ascent. This Ted Talk explains my creativity definition in the most simplistic of steps. This takes the topic a step further in describing the phenomena of auto-plagiarism and cryptomnesia. And if you are REALLY looking for a breakthrough, This process can help you track and ID your personal biorhythms into hitting your creative sweet spot. But above all, go ahead and bookmark (if you still do that anymore) Captain Hook’s treasure cave in this site.
I promise this isn’t some kind of materialistic determinism but in the same way we give thanks for our daily bread, we receive creative thought with thanksgiving, giving glory to God.
I’ll leave you with these:
“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.” – Camus
“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” -C.S. Lewis
Watching: Only Lovers Left Alive
Reading: Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
Listening: Various – Daniel Johnston, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy (Remaster) – Jawbreaker, Mind Games – Lennon
Playing: Batman: Arkham Asylum (replay)