One of the great rewards of maturing as an artist is profound self-knowledge. As the commitment to our creative process grows stronger, we discover that in fact the process is central to who we are. We are essentially channels for creative energy in the universe. We spend our lives maintaining and refining the physical and spiritual circuitry of our minds, body and soul to be effective conductors, and transformers of raw creative matter into tangible, concrete forms.
There are significant pitfalls associated with intense revelation, intense levels of self-discovery. One dangerous side effect is ecstatic or manic emotion. Mystics speak of ecstatic states. Abraham Joshua Heschel, a profound 20th century Jewish thinker and mystic, confesses a troubling incident. Heschel had the capacity for deep concentration during prayer and meditation. One morning, during a particularly deep meditation, a student of Heschel entered his office with a deeply troubled heart, seeking guidance. Although the master’s eyes were open, the master’s mouth formed a blissful smile, the master’s body relaxed in the chair – nevertheless his master was not in the room. The troubled student left his unavailable master – and took his life.
This rather dramatic scene suggests the potential for manic, or ecstatic experience to fully disconnect us from our current reality, rather than to transform that reality for the better, to illuminate that reality in ways that are helpful to audience and fans.
There is great potential during these moments of powerful emotion, if only we will carefully avoid the potential to “check out” from the world, to become lost to an internal world. Rather, we harness this power. We wrestle the energy into our work. We commit to this world, to our audience, to our fans. We create a context of sharing, rather than excluding. We become more present, more available, not less.
As a strong, mature artist, you have learned to wrestle the powerful emotions into productive energy for good work. You have taken moments of ecstatic joy, and moments of dark despair, and invested creative work with these powerful emotions – and shared that work to illuminate the lives of others. Congratulations and keep going!