Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

26 Nov 2007, 15:18 p.m.

Health And Art

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2007 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I hate owing more than one blog entry to someone. One seems reasonable, two seems sloppy. So here's the first of a couple responses to my old pal Zed Lopez -- improvisateur, author of the kind of thing that becomes an email forward, and Clarion grad.

Responding to part of a post of mine, Zed stated that mental health always increases one's creative choices. I would submit that there are particular artistic realms or methods that get harder to explore, or less attractive, the happier and saner one gets. "Health doesn't mean you can't visit those [old dark] places," Zed writes, but really? Maybe I should just take Zed's word on that, because he has way more experience in life and art, but just physiologically there are sensations and emotions I've had that I can't even remember now, much less access for use in stand-up or writing. I'm sure it's not a zero-sum game between artistic mojo and life function, but I bet the tradeoff will cause some friction with one's agent during the transition.

It is possible to realize that your urge toward artistic accomplishment arose from feelings of worthlessness, or otherwise from a bad place, and realize you don't actually want to pursue the same artistic endeavor in the same way. The incompatibility between ambition and contentment speaks to this, but there's such a thing as healthy ambition and unhealthy ambition. Contentment isn't incompatible with the former.

Maybe this is my comic-book understanding of Buddhism coming through, but ambition = desire and desire is by definition a lack of contentment. Yeah, I'm gonna say that's too simplistic. Evidently there are people who are basically happy with their lives and find some drive other than the need for therapy that pushes them to make neat stuff. Maybe the urge to awesomeness, or "I could do better than that" exasperation. OK, that I could believe.

Brendan: was that last para transparent?

Okay. The harder one in a few days.


26 Nov 2007, 23:38 p.m.

Wow, did you find that by looking for times I linked to Zed or is that just a coincidence?

I think that is admirably transparent. I think the disconnect between your and Zed's positions is the level of satisfaction that "contentment" implies. You can have some contentment with your living situation, be mentally healthy, and still not be satisfied that the world is perfect. Some of that perceived imperfection may be of the "the world would be better if I wrote this story" type, for whatever value of "better."

I don't think you're wrong about the friction.