I’m not sure where this is going.
Sometimes dreams work best as just that: dreams. Sometimes it’s better to have done something than to be doing it. I’m sitting in Helsinki as I write this, cross-legged on a mattress seven floors up in an unremarkable building on Hämeentie. I’m here because, it could be argued, I’m living the dream. Or the cliché, or the delusion, I’ll let you be the judge.
There’s an idea that a person has to suffer in order make worthwhile art. Some people take it a step further and manufacture pain in their lives in order to have something to write about. I don’t think it can be argued that more often than not a lot of good work comes from a lot of really bad experiences; it’s just that those experiences have to be real or the insights gained are going to be as fatuous as the notion which gifted them to you in the first place.
What I’m working my way around to is this: in my humble opinion the one element you’ll find all great works have in common is truth. I’m told that someone once said “all beautiful things look the same.” I like to think this is what they meant: that you see or hear or listen or feel a work of art, know it to be true, and it moves you. And that is beautiful. And it turns back on itself and makes you think. And so it changes you, hopefully for the better, and thereby improves the world. Apparently it also results in me sounding like a dolphin-squeezing acid casualty, so I’ll move on.
One of the reasons Superman is so boring is because he’s perfect. Art reflects life reflects art, and life is populated solely by imperfect people. Imperfection is a language we understand and know to be true. Imperfection is fascinating, while perfection is perfectly predictable. I’m here, in Helsinki, in part because last year a long dark night of the soul that lasted about a decade came to a halt with all the grace of a side of beef hitting a sidewalk. That decade caused a lot of pain, and was itself caused by a lot of pain, which in turn was caused by a lot of pain before that. Over the last five years especially the people closest to me have seen me at my worst. And in the hangover following a less-than-glorious episode it’s hard not see oneself revealed. What separates the doers from the dilettantes, however, is then revealing that truth to others by way of an observation, or a character, or a verse, or a stroke; risking yourself so that someone else, somewhere, might look up and think “I know this”, or “I’m not alone”, or “Now I see”, “Tomorrow will be different”, or “This too shall pass.”
It’s sometimes easier to be naked before thousands than before the one you love.