more thoughts on artists and solitude

This NPR article on musician Laura Marling and empathy caught my eye this morning, which led me to view this one (“How To Be Alone: Musicians Confront Solitude”) featuring Marling, Sufjan Stevens, and other similar artists.

I feel there’s a lot I could and would like to say in response to these – to me, personally very intriguing – articles. They touch on a lot of concepts (including roots/rootedness, stillness, solitude, community, compassion, contemplation/contemplative prayer and living, and art/creating/creativity) which are important to me and which I’ve been thinking on quite a bit over the past year or so; but for my own sake, I’d like to try and keep this post brief.


Article 1.) I found it fascinating that, in Laura Marling’s experience, solitude and stillness, especially, were a necessary pre-requisite to increased empathy and compassion for other human beings. I guess it’s not just activists (or activist types/wannabe’s) that need to note/remember the vital, absolutely crucial – even key – importance of being still, but artists, too – and all human beings, in fact.

And Article 2.) A brief excerpt:

It’s a challenge Stevens poses to himself, to make space for a presence that continually gets lost in the human shuffle. This idiosyncratically Christian artist might call that presence God, but he could also call it beauty, or inspiration, or vastness, or solitude, or even nothing — all the names for the unnameable that artists and holy people have conjured over the years.

It’s never been easy, in the modern world, to sit with the unnameable. The extremes people embrace in order to simply be united with, and humbled by, creation are the subject of a huge body of literature stretching from ancient texts to today’s self-help e-books, and of visual art and theater ranging from Hitsuzendo calligraphy to Meredith Monk’s performance art. Music is a paradox within this pursuit: It fills the empty space of solitude even as it stimulates a desire for it. … And it serves as a vehicle for narratives, but it always pulls against those stories, sometimes even noisily overwhelming them. … Younger artists who take solitude or silence as a theme do so knowing how difficult it is to even approach such matters without immediately negating their core meaning.

Yes! That last sentence touches on a tension that I’ve sensed many times before myself, even with this small blog of mine, or any other attempts at writing or creativity of my own, or with reading about stuff more than actually doing/pursuing those types of things myself…I think it’s also the same sort of tension that Henri Nouwen alludes to in his The Genesee Diary when he talks of the gap (sometimes even conflict) between talking and writing about praying and actually praying, as well as what Bekah Stewart (creator of A Well Traveled Woman blog and tumblr) is talking about when she writes how posting on her sites saps her energy and, ironically, can actually end up making the type of lifestyle she is trying to advocate with her work more elusive/less attainable for herself and her family.

And with that, I’m done with this (and other social media) for today.


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