Sometimes life feels like it’s all tunnel and no light, as though someone closed Pandora’s box and left hope trapped in the bottom. Enjoying life—even for a moment—seems impossible or just wrong somehow. But a life without music, dancing, laughter, or stories is a life devoid of connection, which is to say that it is no life at all but a living death.
You can argue that there are people for whom destruction or self-aggrandizement is all that matters, or that the good life is one of seclusion and meditation. However, I’m not so sure that’s true for many people; when it does apply, it’s barely a corner of the larger picture.
We all seek some kind of meaning in life, although some people seek simple goals, a corner of happiness in what can be a drab and dull life. Others have more ambition. They seek fame and fortune for themselves or they work tirelessly to save lives or understand the universe around them. But underneath it all, we all have a desire to connect to something, or more importantly, someone.
Destructive tendencies, physical or emotional violence, and voluntary isolation may stem from mental illness or traumatic experiences. Many self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, join hate groups, or simply turn inward and disappear into themselves. Far too often, a thwarted need to connect with others causes or exacerbates these problems.
Those who are self-serving, power-hungry, and fame-seeking often want the love and adoration of the people they step on to get it, but they often have to settle for the illusion.
Those who seek peace through solitude and meditation do so from a desire to connect to something greater than themselves. Few live in complete isolation. Most have ties to a community of some kind, likely religious or spiritual. They are seeking a deeper meaning, and their first need is to connect to what is hidden within themselves. Almost inevitably, they return from isolation to share their experiences and wisdom with others and to learn from them in turn.
Most of us fall somewhere in between these extremes, and for better or worse we’re surrounded by people who are in the same position. Occasionally (or not so occasionally for some of us), we seek time alone, but absolutely no one wants to be lonely.
Loneliness is not the absence of human company but the absence of connection. You can live every moment of your life surrounded by other people and still feel alienated and alone if you don’t believe that you are heard, understood, or cared for. Reaching out can be frightening. For the emotionally isolated, art can be a light in the darkness.
Engaging with art can be a way to connect with others indirectly. It may not fulfil all your needs for companionship, but it can remind you that you’re not truly alone, that there are others who understand the kinds of struggles you face. The stories they write, the songs they sing, and the pictures they paint can all give you a moment to live in someone else’s reality, even if the work is fictional. Art always touches on some aspect of the creator’s life and experiences. It is the emotional umbilicus that connects the artist to their audience, and the audience members to each other, even if they don’t know it.
It’s not important that what is shared be something happy or pleasant. By expressing fear, pain, and rage, the artist can give voice to the silent just as readily as they can soothe a broken spirit. And it’s not important for the artist to wait for the right time. There is a time and a place for art: the time is now and the place is everywhere.
So enjoy art. Make art. Someone somewhere may need to hear what you have to say.