It’s been over a decade now since Nietzsche got seriously introduced in my life, a period in which I read several of his books, my favorite remaining The Gay Science. Of all his thoughts, the one from which I benefited the most, the one which has affected me mostly and which has remained with me throughout is this one: the idea and hence the will of affirming life, of affirming the being you are now, at this moment, in this infinitely complex web of becoming. What would it take, then, to make such a leap of affirmation? It would require a human being to look into her past, and to behold the most difficult and painful events through which she has lived, and to accept them, embrace them, and even love them because they are part of the intricate makeup that constitutes her current self, because without them she would not be who she is at this moment. Nietzsche would say that she would have to will them again, want to live through them again and again out of an infinite love and affirmation for the person she has become. In fact the web of events that Nietzsche has in mind extends far beyond the person in question, the particular subjectivity, to encompass the world and its history; so the person now looks at the most painful and questionable events in history and existence and out of an infinite love of life wills them again because she wills its present and future, hers and life’s, because in her heart a powerful Yes! is resounding, a powerful emotion that acts like a loop through which everything that has ever lived wants to be again, is in love with itself. And to complete the circle Nietzsche then devised the idea of eternal recurrence. The person now stands at the crux of the moment and asks herself if, living this moment the way she is living it, she is ready to live it again and again for an infinite number of times in the exact same way. To will this moment once is then to will it for an eternal number of times, recurring through the fabric of existence, so, obviously, you would want to will it in the best way possible, or the way that is most in harmony with your strength and heart. Ultimately, you must say Yes! to living your life in the exact same way again and again for an infinite number of times; you affirm existence in your person, and through you existence entire is justified. All of this, however, must be contemplated truly and not just in abstraction, its truth must be felt taking hold of the whole heart. Nothing is more difficult. Yet the difficult is something we love, because we love life.
Change sets in and our first reaction is one of resistance; we fear the pull into the unknown, and the way it forcefully pushes itself into our lives without care for our feelings. So we resist, yet simultaneously and reluctantly react, as we must, since change will not disappear simply because we wish it. Yet down the river and as its waters pull us further and further from the shore where we felt safe, we notice how we are no longer looking back; we have accustomed ourselves now to the motion, the waterfalls, and the eddies of the water, have grown perhaps the suitable set of muscles to swim these particular curves, and are now coming to a new shore we were not previously aware of its existence. Our resistance ceases, and our fear drops away. The water throws us upon this new shore, and, looking back, we feel a subtle gratefulness in our hearts as we become aware of just what it is we gained by being thus hurled out of our safety into an unknown and something not common to us. Surely, we have gained a new set of skills we previously lacked, skills we are now eager to practice and show off and perform, skills enabling a better grasp upon our life, a better navigation through life. We also laugh at our resistance, and deem it a bit infantile from our part, that we resist precisely where we should embrace and be daring. We understand that change will come again, and that as it comes we will still fall upon our age old emotional mechanism and resist; but, we hope, time after time our resistance will lessen as in contrast our sense of daring will gain the upper hand; we hope that, one day, we will become seafarers and daredevils, daring the widest ocean and the most unsettling experience to come our way.
After reaching his peak in orgasm a man will feel either one of two things: he will be repulsed by himself, the world, and his lover (in case he wasn’t alone), he will feel himself withdrawing from what he just experienced and by effect withdrawing from his world and lover and will hate himself and the world for it. This, by far, is the most widespread reaction, and this reaction is usually kept at bay and hidden, rationalized and left without recognition as men waft themselves out of the moment in one way or another. The other reaction which is much rarer is one where a man will feel at rest and at ease in himself, in his partner, in the world and in what just happened. He will feel that he actually gave something, that something rose out of his soul and flowed outward unifying him in the most ecstatic and happy way with his lover and world. He will feel an openness in his soul. Alas, so much, oh so much is required of us men in order to be able to hold ourselves and arrive at this moment.
Man is good not because of a primordial quality, something which in him exists in a natural state apart from society, but because the possibility of being good exists for him in his future, because, molded the right way, he can become so in his future. So it is a future seed with a retroactive force that acquires of him the full weight of his soul to actually become, and not something lurking in his past which requires of him to passively submit and surrender. So it is with love; love, which demands of him not to unlearn everything as the modern nihilists would like us believe, unlearn everything and revert back to a pure and unsoiled state, but to learn and educate himself so much as to become able to love. Goodness and love are romanticized by those who lack them most, and those who, pierce a little into their soul, you’d find them to be infested with maliciousness and hate.
I have often heard artists describing how their inspiration, on the sudden spur of the moment, climbs or descends into their veins out of nothing, or from a source that is not visible, hidden from plain sight, flooding into their creative impulse from a tectonic realm submerged in darkness. This gave rise to the curious yet valid belief in the sublime and the divine, that the inspiration descends straightforward from the gods, or from a hidden, transcendental realm, and buds fiery in the imagination and flesh of the artist, in her soul. Inspiration is an other worldly inspiration, a mystic intuition into a realm constantly trying to communicate with us and through us, and one we can only understand by yielding to it and becoming its tool and fountainhead.
And so attacking the divine and the sublime, pointing to their scientific untruth and logical invalidity is utter blasphemy for the artist for the sole reason — and what more important reason can there be? — that it deprives them from their sustenance and air; that, by laying a knife on that which for them is holy, they are cut off from their passion and worldview, deprived from their muse and their creativity. This is their truth and they hold on to it more dearly than their dear life. And who can dispute such a truth! Who, before it, is not inclined to bow in respect and awe? Cut the artists off and they linger, dead yet a live, and many an artist — if true to her art — chooses death over this degraded state of living. Ah, blessed be those humans who can be genuine to their bones! Blessed be those for whom sustenance is more than daily bread and water, more than a mere indulgence in immediate pleasures!
I approach the question of the creative impulse in artists with the utmost respect and appreciation for them who, after all, taught mankind the alphabet of the passions, making possible that most sublime passion of all, the passion of love. What can we ever give back in gratitude if not becoming better lovers and humans ourselves, better artists and more sublime embodiments of life.
So, with the above in mind, I dare and pose the question and attempt an answer: I posit that the artist, at one point or another in her life, felt an insurmountable urgency to synthetize and fuse all her impulses under one will and banner, that the artist became a tyrant and tyrannized herself and willed herself into a creation. This urgency struck the artist over a prolonged period of time and overwhelmed her with a strength even greater than life and death. The artist stood before herself and said, ‘upon this creation, which must come through me, hangs my life and death; either I pour myself into this creation or I perish and die.’ No one but the artist and Dionysian lover will truly grasp and appreciate the vehemence of this drive.
The artist succeeded and stood all proud before her creation. ‘But maybe it was really chance that had its way with me; to become a true believer, I must do it again.’ So the artist, on the crust of her triumphant moment, said to herself, and went back with an even greater need to tyrannize her impulses into a greater and a more heightened moment and creation. Her lust was momentarily pacified but now it is renewed and it wants more. The pacification was the moment — and moment here is the lapse of time during which the creative act lasts — the impulses yielded and gave birth and were thus relieved of their tension. Like a muscle grows through training and flexing the impulses grew and are demanding more and better nutrition; they thickened into roots suckling more and more of the artist’s life-source.
A step further and the impulses under the guidance of the artist’s will become this tree that is identical with her life. There is no moment that passes in the outer and inner worlds and which this tree does not collect as honeydew into the boiling pot of the artist’s creative passion. This has now become sublimated and unconscious in the artist; whether asleep or waking it has become her raison d’être, always at work, in the darkness and in the light. At any moment now and without warning the pot may overflow, seemingly from a hidden and secret source. At any moment creation might come and strike the flesh of the artist from within like a bolt of lightning.
The artist trained her impulses, and the beast will run away with her, even into the dark pits of hell.