Friday, August 13, 2004

Jeanette Winterson on creativity and the meaning of life.


If pills are not the answer. What is?
I don`t have the answer, but I have noticed a few things as I have been up and down the world: ONE: People who complain that life is meaningless, are not prepared to find meaning for themselves - they expect it to be automatically present. Nothing of value is automatic or inevitable - it has to be dug out, coaxed, sought, and when found, celebrated. It may be that creative people understand this, because for us, working at the problem of meaningless, is in itself, meaning. Working at the creative problem brings satisfaction. It may not bring happiness, but it fights despair.
I do not know what is THE MEANING OF LIFE, if there is one, but I do know that making something worthwhile is satisfying. We have to find what it is that is worthwhile to us, one by one, each to each, and then give that something proper space in our lives.
For some it may be children, for others, the pleasures of a real home. Real work is enough for many people, but those who don`t have real work, something else must be found. The key is to find it, and to give it everything. `No one can be happy or fulfilled or whatever word you want to use, unless they have something they value at the centre of their own life.
Inevitably, the sense of a venture greater than yourself brings meaning. A selfish life is never a happy life - and famed so-called selfishness of artists is really a misrepresentation. If the work you do affects other people in a positive way, whether it provokes thought or allows imaginative change, then that work and its pursuit has nothing selfish about it. The truth is, that when we fulfil ourselves as human beings, we give something back to the collective.
Of course, there are plenty of people who claim to be fulfilling themselves while giving back nothing. But let`s not waste time there.

In between bouts of viral near-death, I went to Munich to see Deborah Warner`s RAPE OF LUCRETIA by Benjamin Britten. It was a revelatory piece of work, because it went deep into ideas of suffering, betrayal, and the brutality of war. Watching it, thinking about it, it seemed to me yet again that art forces us to grow. Growth is painful, necessary, but art makes a space where it can happen. There are people who find opera the most redundant of art forms, but nothing is redundant unless the human imagination can no longer find a foothold there.
For me, art is about finding a foothold. It is often a steep climb, but the rock-face we are scaling is ourselves.
All the art forms offer a way into and up through the self. Opera, when it works, combines the force of music with the power of theatre. When it doesn`t work, it is beyond belief bad, because the force of the music is lost. We have to be very careful about blaming the piece of music for the faults of a production. A reason to keep going back to opera re-staged, is to be sure we are finding the music again and again.
The same applies to theatre - is it the text or the staging? Great plays can withstand all kinds of interpretations - just as music can. The challenge and pleasure for us as an audience is in re-visiting the places that we think are familiar, and finding that they are changed. When that happens, we change too.

I hope some of you are going up to the Edinburgh Festival this year. I shall be appearing on Sat 21st of August at 11am, in a tent somewhere. Come and find me if you are around and about.

August 27th is my birthday - which is always a great celebration for me, though as last year was The Rolling Stones at the private London Astoria concert, I`m not sure what I can do this year to improve on that.

For Leos and early Virgos, all, Happy Birthday! We deserve it. If you are a Leo, buy someone else a present on your own birthday, and if you are a Virgo, buy yourself a present - or better still give yourself a present. Vow to make the thing you really want to happen, happen.

Meanwhile, our impossible Prime Minister holidays with Cliff Richard in Barbados, and wonders why he is becoming a joke.
Still, this is the season of summer charity. Pour a glass of pink wine and forgive - if not quite your enemies, at least the people you find ridiculous.

From Jeanette Winterson's site

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