As Beethoven moved toward deafness in the early 19th century, his doctor recommended he leave city life in order to come to terms with his illness. Not to be cured. To grasp that he was going deaf. A successful musician and talented composer, Beethoven moved out of Vienna and contemplated suicide.
We have been here. Despondent, distraught, alone, afraid.
Beethoven sank into his work. And, a few years later, as high frequencies began to disappear from Beethoven’s hearing altogether, he composed his Fifth Symphony. The one that begins da-da-da-dum. The one so famous you know what I’m referring to. The one with the first four notes that have been as influential as any other in Western music.
It’s the one about which a critic of the day said it was so raw and exciting that people shouldn’t be allowed to listen to it.
And so it is with us.
When we’re children, we create because it’s fun; we’re all artists exploring the world. But as we grow–and many of us stop creating completely–we create for different reasons. We create because of pain.
It’s like when you stub your toe and you skip and hop and run around the room. Pain makes us do something. Pain drives us to action. We can try to dull it or distract ourselves–which are actions–we can lash out. Or, we can create something new.
What if our creative acts are places where we acknowledge our pain, and then begin to redeem and reform it? What if they are places where we take the sting of life and try to turn it into something beautiful? And, after we finish howling at the sky and cursing the wind, we ask: What now?
The first answer–and maybe the only answer ever really worth it–is to move. To dig a garden. Take a run. Toss stones into a lake. Pick up a brush or pen or guitar. Open a computer or teach a class. Start a boycott or a symphony or a novel. For when we create, we express how we burn, how we bleed, and we express it first to ourselves, and then to the world, and beyond it to the unseen ghost behind it all.