Creativity & Mental Illness

nah puuchh be-khudii-e aish-e maqdam-e sailaab
kih naachte haiN paRe sar bah sar dar-o-diivaar

don’t ask about the self-lessness of the enjoyment of the coming of the flood
for/since they dance, fallen, end to end– doors and walls {58,9} Ghalib

Even if there are connections between creativity and madness, it does not mean that madness is the premise. Mental illnesses are generally disabling, and it could be a chance occurrence that being human, exceptionally creative minds too have their share of them. Acute sensitivity can lead to fruitful distraction and mood lability, but chaos is nothing without kosmos and vice versa.

“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”

Nietzsche, Also Sprach Zarathustra

Illness and Art – Arts & Academe – The Chronicle of Higher Education

The reason why a work of genius is not easily admired from the first is that the man who has created it is extraordinary, that few other men resemble him.  It is his work itself that, by fertilizing the rare minds capable of understanding it, will make them increase and multiply.  It was Beethoven’s quartets themselves (the Twelfth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth) that devoted half a century to forming, fashioning and enlarging the audience for Beethoven’s quartets, thus marking, like every great work of art, an advance if not in the quality of artists at least in the community of minds, largely composed today of what was not to be found when the work first appeared, that is to say of persons capable of appreciating it.  What is called posterity is the posterity of the work of art.  It is essential that the work (leaving out of account, for simplicity’s sake, the contingency that several men of genius may at the same time be working along parallel lines to create a more instructed public in the future, from which other men of genius will benefit)  should create its own posterity.  For if the work were held in reserve, were revealed only to posterity, that audience, for that particular work, would be not posterity, but a group of contemporaries who were merely living half a century later in time.  And so it is essential that the artist (and this is what Vinteuil had done), if he wishes his work to be free to follow its own course, should launch it, there where there is sufficient depth, boldly into the distant future.  

Marcel Proust, In Search Of Lost Time: Within a Budding Grove, page 142-143.

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