Life experiences can make us feel alone and helpless. The best medicine may be to embrace creativity and get moving.
In a scene from the 1988 Belgian-French film The Music Teacher, young Sophie stands in the rain after failing to seduce her voice teacher, the aging Mr. Dallayrac, and screams, “I’m not happy, and one cannot sing if one is not happy!”. Sophie’s naiveté is gut-wrenching. Dallayrac has a heart condition and has carried on for years in a great deal of pain. He knows first hand that art and singing can come from anguish and unhappiness just as easily as joy, if not more so. As the haunting strains of Schumann’s Stille Tränen, “Silent Tears”, wash over us, sung passionately by bass-baritone José van Dam (who is also featured in the title role), we need no translation to get the point. Pain has deepened Mr. Dallayrac’s artistry even as it has robbed him of his ability to perform.
Words are not enough and silence is too much…
We don’t ask for illness or difficulty; they find us. In the span of three and half years my house flooded, requiring large parts of it to be rebuilt, and I struggled with an elusive health issue which turned out to be gluten intolerance, quite possibly Celiac disease. It hasn’t been the easiest time of my life, and yet, I find my singing, writing, and performing more precious and satisfying than ever. When you can stand onstage and lose yourself in something that has nothing to do with your troubles, that is glorious. When you can stand onstage and speak of what you have been through and reach out to others, that is even better. I never stopped working, but I’ll admit, I had days when I wanted to pull back, to circle around my damaged nest and flail. When I gave in to that impulse I was lonely, I was angry, and I was destructive. Have you been there, too? For me, it took just a few minutes writing, singing, going to a museum, or finding something art related to melt the ice and make me feel human again. Art is precious because it connects human beings by speaking of experiences that we share, especially those we find difficult to talk about.
What have you found in your experience? Has art ever led you to a more peaceful state, or has it riled you up and given you strength to do something you never thought you could do? Have you found yourself able to express something in art that you couldn’t express in any other way, either in the realm of joy or pain? Has your understanding of others and yourself grown by witnessing an artist communicating from the heart? Please let me know; I would love to hear your stories.