I want to keep going on the theme from the last post. The comments were very cool. Even the negative comments are interesting cause at least people are paying attention and it’s getting a response. As long as they don’t outnumber the good comments, of course.
So supposing tomorrow I was offered a six-figure book deal--and my "cosmic debt" was fulfilled. By no means would this convince me that I am a "great" writer. I would not feel automatically christened, as if my entitlement was complete. Success isn’t enlightenment. However, how could I not feel somewhat smiled upon? I don’t believe that it is an arbitrary or random process determining who becomes successful. This stems from my belief in God at the most basic level--everything has a reason, everything has purpose. At the core, down to the DNA, there is a spiritual basis. I don’t mean this in any ghostly, or even transcendent, way.
I would be ecstatic if I was given the opportunity to be a well-fed writer. There is more to creating art than just completing a work. The Beatles were able to complete Sgt. Pepper because they had all the time in the world to do it. They had the money to use string sections and perfect the record. This is much more important in music than in writing where all you need is a pen and some paper. Still, Philip Roth and many others can wake up every morning and work on their writing. I have to spend the majority of my time trying to make a living, paycheck to paycheck. Sure it’s a test of my artistic meddle to see if I can still write in this environment. But ultimately I would like to be successful so I can have the freedom to write and explore what I like.
What is it that makes some people popular and some people not? Often, very good things become successful: The Beatles, Jack Kerouac, Nirvana, Martin Scorsese. I would like to be a part of that group. Somehow great things do rise to the surface. More often, crap becomes successful, so it is not a proof of worth. Success might mean you’ve touched the human soul, but then I’m fooling myself because Celine Dion touches the human soul as well. Though maybe Celine Dion has been very helpful to a lot of people, saved them from suicide, got them through illness and so on--even if she has no depth.
Which leads me somewhere else--there is a great chasm between great art and crap. There are very few Mozarts, Einsteins, John Lennons--while there’s an endless amount of failure. Maybe "bad" artists don’t see it as failure. Maybe they love what they do and are expressing themselves as well as they can. Fine, but John Lennon is just miles above most other songwriters. Was he divinely inspired? John Lennon was more than just "lucky." Paul McCartney is proof of that. Once is luck, twice is something else. I think there is something mystical about the Beatles. Just how great they were, the head of a movement, three songwriters all in the same group, same town, same time. Almost as soon as they broke up they all seemed to lose their talent. The dream was over. Perhaps we all have the capacity to be divinely inspired, but only some know how to channel it. Maybe, but even these channelers have something over the rest of us.
We seem to be living in a time when fewer and fewer artists seem to be touched by God. I think people have become too inward, too self-conscious. Art is becoming an expression only of the self, rather than something transcendent. Look at John Coltrane, personal and transcendent at the very same moment. That man really was touched by God. Listen to Glenn Gould play Bach’s Goldberg Variations and tell me if that doesn’t sound like the language of God. Is this totally arbitrary? Was Gould given genius like somebody else might be given cancer? Mozart was composing symphonies at six. It almost seems like a disorder. It’s not like he had the time to cultivate his genius, he just was a genius. I believe that Mozart was touched by something outside himself, he was possessed. But even this seems passive, like he was a puppet of God, and that in itself seems arbitrary.
On that front, sort of, I find it very strange to what a sour degree brilliant songwriters lose their talent. Paul McCartney, David Bowie, I just heard some new songs by Roger Waters which pale next to what he’s done before, even if it has a nice anti-war message. It’s almost as if they used up their brilliance in their early years. Maybe they abused the privilege. Maybe being that wealthy makes it hard to feel in the same way they once did. Maybe rock music can only be made by people in their twenties. I’m glad that I have fiction writing to fall back on. Prose writers usually get better with age.
Basically, I have no answer to any of this. I’m trying to define divine inspiration and trying to determine if success is divinely inspired as well. I have no idea.
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