There are times when I find myself profoundly lonely, and no amount of communication or reassurance from anyone could help. My sense of my separation with the world is so strong it’s like being on an island. The only thing that makes me feel better in those times is to work on a creative project, a story, a poem, a piece of music.
There’s a picture of Bruce Springsteen on the cover of his album Darkness on the Edge of Town which shows him staring at the camera with a particularly intense expression on his face. I recognize myself in that picture. While I look nothing like Springsteen, it seems to me that he’s having the same thought processes I find so familiar.
Springsteen has discussed his depression openly. While I can’t claim any level of clinical depression, I do empathize with a man who feels extremely vulnerable to input from the world, and who manifests that sensitivity in severe mood swings. I also understand his need both to bring the world closer and keep it at bay with his creativity.
I think it must have been the same for Brahms, who had many dear friends but couldn’t bring himself to marry, not even the woman he loved most in the world. His music is rigorous and unforgiving and yet still manages to be both profound and beautiful. He put so much of himself in his work when, perhaps, he could not bring enough of himself to others.
This is what comforts me when I listen to certain music, read certain books and poems, even look at particular artists. For me, the experience is more than just an appreciation of aesthetic beauty, or admiration of the maker’s skill. Rather, I am being allowed to commune with the creator of the work.
Perhaps they, like me, found themselves so unlike the people around them (or so they thought) that the only way they could maintain a sense of connection to the world was to put something new into it, something that represented them, that could safely speak for them. Perhaps I just imagine that I’m getting the message, or perhaps it’s really there. Either way, I feel better when I listen.
That communion is absolutely necessary for me. It provides me a sense of attachment when I feel unmoored. Even better, It allows me to connect to someone whom I feel a kinship with, or whom I seek to emulate.
But beyond that it gives me hope. Many times when I was lost and creating seemed to ease my pain, I had a distant notion that I was reaching someone, somewhere. Maybe I’ll never meet that person, but it gives me comfort to know that I may be providing them with the same lifeline that was passed to me.