[-empyre-] Writing and viewing and living our pain

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Tue Oct 16 07:07:44 EST 2012

Hi Deena,

It seems to me this is a delicate balancing act. My mother before she died 
was in such agony, she couldn't speak, much less express anything. There 
is also clinical depression, which is chemistry and often unresponsive to 
anything. One has to have the capacity to express, and expressing may be 
indeed a form of healing. But I've seen people who lose that, who don't 
respond. Even in terms of mental pain, there have been times I've been 
reduced (note the passive tense, which doesn't imply passivity) to silence 
or silent weeping. I don't want to go on about this, but trauma and 
depression can be very close to intractible, which is why I find the 
latest issue of the AAAS' Science magazine important - it has a section on 
depression, potential causes and cures.

- alan

On Mon, 15 Oct 2012, Deena Larsen wrote:

> Hi,
> I'd like to respond to a couple of points so far:
> We have a long standing convention of using art to express the otherwise
> ineffable truths of being-emotions, pain, daily living, spirituality--it is
> the way to communicate what our souls en(s)(d)ure.
> The act of writing/creating, whether it be performative or private --the
> elegy or the journal-- can in and of itself be an anodyne.
> Moreover, the act of reading /being an audience can be a catharsis.  There
> are a few scenes in literature that I go back to over and over again when I
> want to *feel* and *release* and *be* and *overcome--or at least cope with*
> my pain--when I want to help be healed of my depression and agonizing grief.
> (okokok I admit it, I have a few secret vices.  When I am really upset and
> depressed, I'll declaim the entire Wasteland, but when I just want a good
> cry, I open up the Little Princess to the scene where Sarah finds her father
> has died. There now, you know all/some of my secrets.)
> So to answer Alan, we write/create because in reliving the agony, we can
> channel it and find a way to survive.
> To echo the material presented on convention, it is almost entering a
> paradox, but we do have these conventions stemming back thousands of years
> (or at least to the greek plays, to chinese literature, to...) that creating
> in pain relieaves pain, and viewing pain helps to understand it, giving us a
> perspective we need to deal with our own emotions.  So I am not sure we
> really are breaking conventions when we show the extremity of our pain.
> Alan wrote:
> On empyre, I wonder and want to ask - not about
> avatars, but a more basic question - how do we live with ourselves? and
> especially for those of us who have experience trauma or war or torture (I
> fit in the first category only, as if these were categories), how do we
> live with ourselves? For if embroiling our work in these issues of pain
> and annihilation solves nothing but brings mourning and despair, anguish,
> constantly to the foreground, how can we possibly escape? I think these
> questions are at the heart of the human project, such as it is, and would
> like to hear from others here, if possible.
> ?Not sure who wrote>>The problem here is that breaking conventions can then
> become the aim of the art/work, or thus become equally conventional. 
> That is to show the extremity of our pain feeling thought etc, we break
> convention and then risk becoming as tied in the convention of breaking
> conventions as we were previously tied in the conventions we are breaking;
> or we take the risk becoming incomprehensible or repetative, because there
> are no conventions to interpret us by.
> Deena Larsen
> http://www.deenalarsen.net

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