I was having a bad day. On a scale of 1 to 10, mental stress wise, it figured 273. Some muddled thinking and random browsing led me to an illustrated excerpt of Neil Gaiman’s speech at the zenpencils website.
I have often seen my father produce brilliant poetry or break out in song every hour, despite terrible physical pain and/or severe stress. It never occurred to me that suffering could feed inspiration.
On the day this was written, it was an enormous challenge for me to do anything besides grinding my teeth and filling emails with clipped sentences. I found that trying to write when you’re in a dark mood sucks out energy with parasitic intensity. Perhaps that’s the point. Well, enough analysis. When life is hard, make good art. Good or bad, whatever comes out of you during that time is art. Here’s what I came up with –
Imagine yourself making love. Time screams past your ears, and in the next nanosecond, completely stills, gives you a glimpse of the mystery behind it, a tantalising tease into the infinite beauty of its rush and ebb, arousing you out of that other-dimensional reverie and deep into the fused, fluid entity of your bodies. When you thought this would go on for an eternity, when you hoped it would never end, comes a moment. You feel the moment with all your senses. It demands something of you, disdainfully flinging across a message in a mysterious, primal language. If you respond right, it would take you into warp, transport you to a divinely generous experience that will let you take back its core and hide it in yourself, long after your body tires, long after memory wanes. Your fingers tremble, a vacuum pulls at your eyeballs from behind, an invisible sponge gorges on every available molecule of moisture in your mouth.
Imagine you’re in the middle of writing something; by middle, I mean right at that point where hours of labour will find purpose. Your fingers poised over the keyboard, trembling slightly, hesitating to put into words what the tempest inside you – which has swept away and churned together your heart and mind and a hundred years worth of experiences and perceptions – has commanded you to convey. Seven words. Seven words, if placed just right, would take you over the crest, away from the pall of dullness that you constantly fight. But if insulted with too much hesitation, or one letter less, one missing dot, one uncrossed t, would drop you back in a void within yourself, where for eons you would yearn for the tempest. Your fingers tremble, a vacuum pulls at your eyeballs from behind, an invisible sponge gorges on every available molecule of moisture in your mouth.
Imagine yourself in a crisis. You’re neck deep in it. No, completely buried by it. Far beyond the point where you wonder if it is really your fault, or if it is of your making. Far beyond the point where you can even attempt to pretend you have an iota of calm left, to even place your hand on the impossibly self-willed console of the vehicle driving you inexorably down, accelerating cruelly, faster than thought. Your own will melts in a puddle of disjointed words – I’m sure we can…I think…some solution…salvage…is there anything we can…anything at all…I’m so, so sorry. For a moment, you cease to exist, for a moment, you find the grip of that nihilistic vehicle waver. For a moment, there is a sliver of…something. Your fingers tremble, a vacuum pulls at your eyeballs from behind, an invisible sponge gorges on every available molecule of moisture in your mouth.
It’s depressingly tragic that nothing worth anything ever comes out of calm, comfort or stability. It is also terribly ironic that calm, comfort and stability are possible only after an intimate date with life’s meat-grinder. In effect, living is like trying to find a perfect position on your couch – tuck one arm in, curl the middle toe of the right leg, slide down from half the back-rest, and when your rear is exactly three and a half inches from the cushion, let your body unclench and fill a leathery cocoon – and within a minute of this, realise that the fan’s off and, cursing and whining, you get up, switch it on and try to find your cocoon again, only to find that it’s changed completely, but you find another way and get comfortable again, when you remember you left a tap running somewhere…