It begins with an ending.
Which is how most things end up beginning.
The dark secret behind anyone mad enough too live through the emptiness of their own creativity in this world is that they are in constant need of inspiration. They delve into darkness in the hopes it will teach them something they can bring into the light. They would destroy the light if it would result in poetry. They would drink themselves into oblivion in the hopes it would cause that one flash of long lost inspiration to shine a brief, sudden and violent light into their imagination and bring it all home again. Artists destroy themselves on purpose.
Which is why the muddled masses never understand us. Why don't they just get a nice house and a nice family and summer in the islands? We don't have the stomach for it. Sorry, much rather puke bones than eat casserole.
Inspiration is a difficult business. Those who talk about writer's block and dry spells don't really get it. Until you've ridden the train into damnation, you still wonder why it doesn't make it to your station on time. We always get off before the last stop, but each time we ride we have to take it a little bit closer. The closer it gets to the end, the hotter the cars get and the more inclined we all are to jump off, into the snow and ice and wonder how it all went from hot to cold so damned fast.
There isn't much difference between an artist and a madman. The only measurable difference is in creative output. Some have dived so deeply into madness that murder becomes their artform. They may never truly recover. They've found a kind of inspiration that lacks any real acceptance and in doing so they break with the program completely and damn themselves into their madness and, in turn, their art.
The muses are said to be the providers of inspiration. They are said to drive the artist to creative madness. They are symbolic of the thread of inspiration that runs like a river through a righteously mad artist, but if the muses take on a human form, if they are personified in the character of a specific individual encountered by the artist, what then becomes of the madness?
Hector Berlioz was driven mad by his passion for Harriet Smithson, moving him to go beyond music as a system of expression to a madness needed to express what he could not otherwise express. Listen to the final two movements of Symphonie Fantastique for the questions that go with your answers. When his muse was brought to earth and became his wife, only disappointment could result, and with it her madness as well as the expansion of his own. The personification of the muse in earthly, tangible, real form is a recipe for simple disaster, but it is within disaster that inspiration has its greatest power. It is by this that the muse has its most enigmatic form, within symbolic distance comes the power to inspire, to reach for what cannot be grasped, but once inspiration is grasped it turns to sand pouring out through the hourglass between your tightly clenched fingers. Getting it back is the inspiration that drives the remainder of your days.
In The Light
Random light scattered. Holy stars across a field of darkening skies. In time come upon you. Ask this of you. Periodic moments in the night.
A thief in the night. Stealing light from the stars. Seeking to seal off the darkness. Let it be for them and for them alone. Do they dare to challenge the lights? Do I dare to challenge the darkness? What is one life to become when driven by desperate inspiration, clinging to the edge of sanity, longing for the questions that go with the answers vibrating in your inner consciousness? For a true artist holds answers, not questions, but just as the mortals long for answers to their questions, the artist longs for the questions and the longer they go unasked, the more profound becomes the inspiration, and by the same token, the madness.
The personification of the muse is a dangerous form of the most desperate of art. Inspiration is impossible to define. It is different, and somehow the same, in the heart of all who would rise above. It is that warm ray of sunshine cutting through the winter storms. It is the single snowflake that falls in the desert. It is a sinking raft in the deepest part of the oceans. It is the breath of the muses, their damning tongue of inspiration and drive that lures you towards the cliffs, drawing your sinking ship between the Scylla and Charybdis. You cannot succeed in truly understanding and profiting from inspiration until you've seen the edge of your own ruin, for otherwise you have no cause to rise against it. One road to ruin and another to ruin as well, but there is a choice, even when it comes to ruin. Lose this, by sacrifice, in order to avoid losing that. Such choices are the very nature of the iron gates of wisdom, and with wisdom comes a new form of inspiration. The path of excess, excess in moderation, points us towards the gates but then pulls us back in time. Moderation dims inspiration, but saves us from the madness that comes on the reverse side of the coin.
Not quite mad, but getting there, one step at a time. My canvas turned from the written page to the backdrop of life some time ago. I stopped living by the rules proscribed for those who would exist in this world and sought something, something best described as a negative of the photograph of life, the facsimile of white darkness. To make a friend of horror, to greet that which would work against the mortals and to embrace it and accept it as the fuel of inspiration. Not quite mad, but getting there.
The Road Is Long
I do not know where it leads. I do know that I only have a small margin of error before the ecstasy I have so often known in the past dozen years turns on me. The path stretches out before me, but I cannot avoid frequent journeys into the weeds. Ego is like an anchor when your ship knows where to sail. This harbor is soon to be taken by storms, but perhaps we can stay a little longer. The anchor remains down, the storms come, and we are thrown against the rocks with no recourse but to turn to the shipbuilders to rebuild what has been lost once again. The ego of the artist is the tool of his own damnation, for it will convince him he can always overcome what he knows will destroy him. It is a test of strength to stay a little longer, a test of will to dive into brackish water, a final examination of determination to walk into a cage with hungry lions with nothing but a toothbrush...
The personification of inspiration is a deadly card. Once something ethereal becomes tangible it allows itself to be defined. It becomes an unstable element in your life's periodic table, one not likely to aid in shipbuilding or in journeys across deserts or trails thick with weeds. Once it takes on a life of its own, the muse becomes a creature of need, and of wants that become needs, of passions that can never truly be fulfilled, of something that drains the artist of all energy and power, for inspiration can never truly be satisfied. If it could be satisfied, it would cease to be inspiration, and the cause of madness is then defined by a multiple choice question with only two possible answers. Will you choose to kill inspiration itself or to kill the messenger. Scylla and Charybdis. You choose.
Death of The Messenger
Exhausting every resource available. Trying to keep one hope alive. It is for this we sell our souls. To avoid the choice. To avoid realizing the choice. To die by sword or by fire. Which is the coward's road? We would surely choose that one. Let me rise.
Destruction offers two choices. The first is the coward's road. To wallow. To feed off the suffering of the self. To dine on one's own entrails while calling out for water. Give me water. Give me liberty. Give me death. The two choices are between rising again or the acceptance of the slow death that is life at its most banal. Which brings us inspiration? The artist already knows the question. The answer was already posed. Let me rise.
A muse, driven mad by her own personification and the trappings of her insignificant office, embraces self-destruction and waits to be called upon again. An artist, driven to the edge of himself by the road he already saw on every map, yet travelled it all the same, draws a new map. He uses the runes and the symbols from the old map to chart a new course. This bay, this safe harbor, it is wracked with storms and the fleet has run aground, crushed against the rocks by the winds of madness that stir the seas of inspiration. The ways of the gods were never meant to be personified in the playground of their beloved samsara. They were only meant to drive us mad. Eden preceeded the forbidden fruit of inspiration.
And still we travel. And still we journey. And still we raise our insignificant tiny fists towards the heavens and curse. Destruction will have to wait until another day. They are building a new fleet. They are calling it the Bay of Tranquility here in Coolwater Cove. The flagship turns her sails toward the wind, and even as the captain takes to the helm he forgets why ships are personified... Gender is a concept we've belittled in our arrogance. There is another, ethereal meaning of that which is personified as female rather than male. One is the hammer, one is the wind. Sometimes the wind is with your sails and sometimes it is against. Each blow of the hammer creates its own wind, but it is an insignificant wind. What man makes pales in comparison to the inspiration that is merely the sigh the gods.
Just as the muse is inspiration personified, left to fight acceptance of her role and its dire inevitability, the phoenix personified is one who has learned to rise from his own ashes. Eventually the ashes become the only fertile ground. A ship that burns is one last ship that has not had the good sense to sink. We sail on desert seas, in an endless quest for the meaning of white darkness. Inspiration goes to the windward side. If madness is the object, then it will be denied.
Whether on Ida's shady brow
Or in the chambers of the East,
The chambers of the Sun, that now
From ancient melody have ceased;
Whether in heaven ye wander fair,
Or the green corners of the earth,
Or the blue regions of the air
Where the melodious winds have birth;
Whether on crystal rocks ye rove,
Beneath the bosom of the sea,
Wandering in many a coral grove;
Fair Nine, forsaking Poetry;
How have you left the ancient love
That bards of old enjoy'd in you!
The languid strings do scarcely move,
The sound is forced, the notes are few.
I will rise. As will we all. Eventually.