Sunday, June 14, 2015

Something is always born of excess,

Hampton Beach: 4/13/15
CC Jean Stimmell

‘’Something is always born of excess,’ Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary in June of 1945 as she contemplated the value of emotional excess, adding: ‘Great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”1

This quote really resonates with me. 

Not only did Anaïs Nin write this the year I was born, she could well have been writing about me. Not about me as great art, of course, but how much of my life has been consumed with great excesses. In a sign of the times, as a teenager – like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, James Dean…all members of what became known as the Beat Generation, I, too, was a rebel without a cause who defied authority, wrote nihilistic poems, crashed cars, and drank to excess. 

It all stemmed from an unfulfilled, throbbing yearning, I couldn’t express at the time: feeling like a stranger in a strange land.

The 1960s became a time when we were able to rise against all we hated about the plastic, oppressively conservative decade of the 1950s. I was a committed social activist but, at the same time, seamlessly morphed into all the excesses of the 1960s, drugs, rock and roll and sex – with the added dividend of spending over a year in Vietnam. 

Reading Anais Nin’s words today has given me a valuable new lens through which to view my life. I can see now why it felt so liberating to act out with such excess and crazy zeal: An excessive reaction was psychologically necessary in order to balance out my “great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities.”  

To wit: The great terrors of living in a meaningless world facing nuclear annihilation, The great loneliness of growing up in an outer directed society, as part of what David Riesman called the “Lonely Crowd.” The great inhibitions of living in a fear-based, emotionally repressed society. And the great instability of living ones whole life in a climate of fear starting with the godless threat of communism and now mutating into our endless war on terrorism.

Meanwhile, the only war we are winning is the war against Mother Nature – and we all know how that is going to end up.

[1]This quote came from Maria Popova’s Brainpickings today,  6/14/15
Post a Comment