The Consolation of Creativity
LIKE AN OLD HOSPITAL FILE DRAWER, the past month has been lined with images of pain. As it slides coldly shut, I cannot but consider the value of art in light of anguish. What relevance do poems and pictures have in the face of terror and violence? Are they escapist distractions, or, at best, therapeutic exercises for the benefit of their creators?
Perhaps. But I think it more likely that we turn to art in the wake of crisis because creativity offers real consolation for both artist and audience. Pain is the awareness of brokenness. It is the desire to make whole again some shattered aspect of our lives. Creativity weaves disconnected elements—words, notes, threads, pigments—into a new, harmonious unity. To experience art, whether as creator or observer, is to encounter wholeness.
We seek comfort in creativity for the same reason that we seek it in love: out of our broken desire to be whole. Art, at its most basic, is a relationship: a fertile marriage of otherwise sterile, distinct materials. Indeed, love, at its most radical, is a form of art. It unites two otherwise independent beings to create that most cathartic of masterpieces, new life. Creativity is not simply a diversion from suffering; it is the only antidote.
Photograph by Elise Matich