“I’ve never known a writer who didn’t feel ill at ease in the world. … We all feel un-housed in some sense. That’s part of why we write. We feel we don’t fit in, that this world is not our world, that though we may move in it, we’re not of it. … You don’t need to write a novel if you feel at home in the world.” -Andrea Barrett
Just ahead of us are two paths, the first one is to live unrestrained, a non-conscious entity, not to think of one’s actions, just do as a complete innocence of society who will in time follow the social structure that’s expected without question from birth to death… school, a good job, marriage, kids, retirement all fall between this pair of bookends without question of why are we here.
The second path is to live in the complete consciousness of life and what it brings to the table. Leaving everyone else at the horizontal level of being as you aim vertically. But as we can surmise, the vertical has its roots deep in society, a good thing as the roots of life are just as trenchant as the heights. Some would argue that this is where we get stuck if we’re not careful but this is anticipated. Detours are like questions, their not unexpected in this bohemian way of life as the rich loom of wisdom gathers around these roots.
In Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kroger, he argues that the artist suffers a non-life in order to create and they feel depressed when not creating as an actor without a part is suddenly a non-being, naked in front of the ordinary. On one hand, Tonio would like to enjoy the things of this world, and would love to participate but can’t bring himself to let go of his artistic asceticism. Just as still water finds its own level, this back and forth keeps Tonio’s thoughts focused above the circle that is his life.
Tonio’s questions are not just philosophical for his father was born into the same middle class that Tonio grew up in, enchanted as he is with their innocence. But it is his mother, an artist from the south that he has embraced. Some will say that he feels superior as an artist to his fathers’ people but if anything, Tonio admirers their unfeeling innocence, akin to a longing so great that he ventures back home, knowing he has changed and can never go back. For he’s lost the same innocence they still inhabit.
How many of us feel the same way as Tonio asserts. He longs to watch the innocents in others, to embrace it and create from it. To be a voyeur for creativity. He admires their joy and pain in equal measure for he knows that this is where he will find himself. Like a painter he is careful of every brush stroke he’ll make in life so as not to disturb a given situation, he’ll stay in the background, not speaking to preserve the creative moment.
Do you know of someone like Tonio? Or maybe there’s a little bit of Tonio in each of us?
*Photo courtesy of Stock Snap