The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, January 9, 2000

The artist as an integrated, tranquil being

THE concept of the individual and the artist as enunciated by Y.P. Dhawan in his scholarly article "The man who suffers and the mind that creates" (December 12) is merely hypothetical. It lacks in weight and substance and does not seem to be grounded in sound reason. Wrong premises have led him to fantastic conclusions.

The postulate that the artist perpetuates a permanent division in himself, to become two persons — the artist who creates and the man who suffers, does not carry conviction and is far removed from the realities of the creative activity. When an artist is siezed with the impulse to create, there is no "division" but a spontaneous move towards harmony helping the artist to reach the point of concentration which when reached flares up into some artistic form. And the process after the initial tension invariably provides the artist with an inner satisfaction. He is not "the man who suffers", he is the man who experiences a deep inner contentment for having achieved his artistic end. The process of creativity broadend his consciousness and every new awareness is attended by pleasurable sensations. The ‘individual’ does not split in two; on the contrary, his self stands integrated, even purged and expiated.

  Feelings, intellect and consciousness work in unison. It is their mutual interaction that provides moments of truth or the glimmer of eternity and lands the artist on the new shores of joy and happiness - — happiness that becomes an integral part of his personality.

When John Bunyan wrote his Pilgrim’s Progress Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray from their prison cells, their creative efforts gave them strength and joy. Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak wrote his immortal epic Gita Rahasya in the Andaman prison. The creative process in all these three writers brought their soul and spirit to the fore.

Take the life of Rabindranath Tagore. The more he wrote, the more he grew in stature. The ‘artist’ and the man never separated in him. The beliefs and convictions of the man found their way into the work of the ‘artist’ who stood for lofty universal ideals. The artist had felt within him those lofty virtues before he gave expression to it. The creative act thus integrates and strengthens an artist’s personality; it does not split.

Of course there have been instances when the writers went mad or committed suicide. Sylvia Plath, an eminent poetess and wife of the English poet laureate, Ted Hughes, Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf committed suicide. Eugene O’Neill, the doyen of the American Broadway, took a heavy dose of sleeping pills but was saved in time. Edward Albee, another American playwright, had to be committed to a lunatic asylum for some time. The point that needs our attention with respect to these seemingly disintegrated personalities seeking relief in death is that there was a definite outside factor working in demolishing the inside of these creative artists. We know that Sylvia Plath ended her life because of her husband’s contempt and indifference towards her. In England there was even public uproar against Ted Hughes.

The writer touches totally wrong precincts of human existence when he says that "life is unrest and there is no happiness for him (the artist) outside his creation". The truth on the other hand is that the artist with his vision and insight often leaps out of himself to embrace the entire universe; to bring about a happy order of things. Great works were born in tranquility of mind and soul — like Homer’s, Goethe’s and Dante’s. Pre-existent happiness it was that lay waiting for the birth of their magnum opuses.

Nearer home we have Khushwant Singh, an eminent man of letters, who has always loved life and writing. In all his writings and utterances there was never a hint that the artist "pursues the call of pain to the very edge of the unutterable".

Dhawan’s articles are always so illuminating and absorbing, but this one is an exercise in futility.


Lifestyles: 1900-2000

Deepanjali Diwedi’s article: "Lifestyles: 1900-2000 Austerity to extravagance" (December 19) was thought provking. New idols and ideals for the urban are — computers, cash, cars and cellulars. The same is the case with rich rural. The positive side of the modern times — wherein the rich people in urban areas (which excludes residents of slums and lower middle class families) have become more quality conscious enjoy more choices/options, is of no consequence to a common man. An average Indian feels concerned about the flip side of the modern times in that the core of an Indian’s life — the family has started eroding. It is, however, heartening to note that health has started to play a major role in the lifestyle of Indians today — traditional therapies like yoga and meditation are becoming popular. Once again this also is applicable to our rich and upper middle class. All those living under the poverty line cannot afford the luxury of having a "lifestyle" — their lifestyles are supposed to be "constants" and not "variables".


Age of destruction and creation

Apropos of Chaman Ahuja’s article "Age of destruction and creation’’ (December 12), the closing decade of the present century carries a warning to the international community about the threat to peace in the first century to the next millennium. Inter-tribal wars and inter-racial conflicts in various parts of the world are reminders that man has not learnt the values of fraternity and humane conduct.

The destruction which has been visiting Iraq periodically has another message — the only super power cannot be allowed to continue to violate all norms of fair play as and when it wishes.

Denial of the democrats rights of the people in some countries is also responsible for civil conflicts. But the biggest challenge to peace prosperity comes from the growing economic disparities between the developed world and the developing one. The MNCs with their far superior technologies, huge financial capital resources and the backing of the governments in respective countries are responsible for sharpening these disparities. The competition between them on the one hand and the indigenous industries of the developing ones on the other is starkly unequal. The rules of trade being fashioned by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) hardly favour the latter.

The disparities between the rich and the poor in the developing countries are equally sharp and are growing rapidly as the structural adjustment policies, called economic reforms, are being implemented. Reduction of subsidies to the poor, privatisation of public service which benefited the vulnerable sections of the society, the institution of the new patent regime which would result in costlier drugs and agricultural seeds and pesticides, reduced opportunities of jobs as small - industries sector gets almost wiped out, steady erosion of forests, pollution of the streams and the deterioration in the quality of land and its diversion from food crops resulting in dearer food are some of the obvious consequences of these policies.

Yet the elite in the developing countries find in these policies of the developed world new opportunities to accumulate more wealth. Consumerism has blunted the liberal sensibilities of the middle classes. It is not long ago that the middle classes pioneered movements of social changes reformers of the last 150 years came from among them. During the independence struggle they fashioned ideals of social and economic justice, which they helped to enshrine in the constitution. Unfortunately, those times are past. Their divorce from the masses of the poor is creating an explosive situationwhich manifests itself in various ways; in the lawlessness, violent incidents spurred by communal or caste prejudices, the increasing extremist elements and very sullen mood of the general mass of the people. The pessimism is not imaginary in the face of all these real challenges to peace and prosperity.


Home Top