The Artist Within

Detail miniature artist painting portrait q75 878x944%20wiki - The Artist Within

A number of us humanists and New Existentialists travelled to China recently for the Second International Conference on Existential Psychology. It was an awe inspiring and moving time for many of us. A team of us then traveled to various locations throughout China to deliver workshops with the goal of introducing existential psychology to China. My post today is my attempt to refine my answer to a question that was posed to our team. The question posed, and my response to this question, has haunted me ever since. This post is my response to the lingering voices within and my way of giving voice to the depression that I inevitably feel after such mountain top experiences. The poem below is inspired by Rumi and my friend and fellow New Existentialist, Louis Hoffman.

The topic of our workshop was Creativity and Existential Psychology. Louis Hoffman set the tone of the entire trip by sharing his own poetry and educating the audience about the healing effect of poetry. This inspired one participant to share her own story. She shared that she was an artist but had given up her art in order to “face reality” and support herself financially. Perhaps another unspoken reason that she gave up her art can be deduced from her observation that many famous artists such as Van Gogh and Hemingway were tortured souls who many considered crazy. She wanted our opinions of art and mental health. It was obvious that she was inspired by the workshop, yet faced the fear of returning to her art, if she can even find it again. She sought our guidance.

In response, I’d like to offer her this short poem:

Your artist within
has never left.
She is only asleep,
dormant in the deep recess
of your soul.

Is she calling to you?
Is she calling for you?
If so,
Say Yes,

What you’ve awakened to today
is not the absence of your artistry,
but the hibernation of your soul.

What you’ve awakened to today
is the joy of rediscovery,
coupled with the fear of isolation.
An awakening indeed!

What will you do?
How should you act?
How should we live?
How must we be?

Naïve questions one in all!

Who is crazy?
What do you say?

a prerequisite for treatment
East and West.
If so, let it be.

For who is crazy
and who is sane?
Those of us who travel
the road less travelled,
know better.

Furthermore, as additional evidence of the awakening of artists within, I’d like to share one more poem that was written by a translator from our workshop. She had become addicted to existential psychology through attending our pre- and post-conference workshops in addition to the main conference itself. She was a literature major but had to abandon her dream to write to instead enter the world of finance, because of political and family pressures. After her departure from the last workshop where she helped to translate, she wrote the following poem – her first.

In the morning of the day,
I sit in the taxi that drives me
on the highway,
city skylined,
by the sunshine I can see
I feel life so free

I opened the car window
and take a deep breath of the freshness
the gentle mist quickly
disappeared in the sun
So no more worried
the direction is blurred.

Building and trees quickly set behind,
Still as I sat,
feeling flying high.
Many journeys I took before
assigned or given
I treasure this one chosen.

Even though time not abundance
I opened this book in my hand
The Psychology of Existence

— Mark Yang

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