All of our artistic work is our coping mechanism for all times. Artwork is simply what we name our devices of self-salvation. It might contact different lives, salve and save them even, however it’s all the time at backside a personal lifeline.
Søren Kierkegaard (Could 5, 1813–November 11, 1855) had barely set foot into his twenties when he started arriving at this recognition in his personal life and work. Since childhood, he had seen his melancholy as an “terrible secret” he needed to conceal “underneath the cloak of an outward existence of exuberance and gaiety.” By the tip of his adolescence, the cloak had grown all of the thicker as his melancholy grew all of the deeper.
I’m, within the deepest sense, an sad particular person who since my earliest days have been nailed quick to some struggling near madness.
However inside a yr, he was already discovering his calling in his incubus:
I’ve succeeded in turning a somersault into the realm of pure spirit the place I now dwell. However that, in flip, made me completely heterogenous with unusual humanity.
Artistic work was the spring of his somersault — his writing turned the lifeline of his self-salvation. At solely twenty-three, he noticed clearly his goal — to be of service by making unusual life extra livable for others, in flip making his personal life price dwelling:
I’ve conceived of myself as intent upon standing up for the Atypical — in a bungled and demoralized age — and making it lovable and accessible to all these of my fellow-creatures who’re able to realizing it, however who’re led astray by the instances and who chase after the Un-Widespread, the Further-Atypical. I’ve understood my process to be like that of an individual who himself has develop into sad and subsequently — if he loves human beings — notably wishes to assist others who’re able to realizing happiness.
In a passage of extraordinary self-awareness, cognizant that acts of egotism and self-flattery can usually masquerade as altruism, he provides:
However… in all humility to do one thing good to make up for my shortcomings, I’ve been particularly vigilant that my efforts shouldn’t be tainted with self-seeking vainness and, above all, that I served Thought and Fact in such a method as to not derive any secular and temporal benefits therefrom. Due to this fact I do know, in all good conscience, that I’ve labored with true resignation.
A yr later, he acknowledges that in serving to others, he’s additionally serving to himself — not as an finish however as a salutary byproduct, the best way all acts of generosity convey their very own present to the giver:
Like Scheherazade who saved her life by telling fairy tales, so I save my life or hold myself alive by writing.
Complement with the younger poet Anne Reeve Aldrich’s extraordinary letter to Emily Dickinson about methods to bear your struggling and Marcus Aurelius on the Stoic technique for turning struggling into energy, then revisit Kierkegaard on the facility of the minority, the facility of music, why haters hate, our biggest supply of unhappiness (and what to do about it), and the one true remedy for our existential vacancy.