Some thoughts ahead of the publication of my book, Between Still Life and Afterlife: Mas, Photography, and the Self (UP Mississippi, forthcoming).
First, know this: you will lose what you hope to keep. Those of us who create know that our creations–and what we think of as our creativity–come at a cost. They do not simply appear out of a vacuum. No. Something must be given and given up in exchange for what we create. A sacrifice, in a way, without the expectation of a blessing. A curse is as likely to come. Or nothing.
The inevitability of loss is the only gain, the only reward. Know this. Accept it, if you can. Ignore it, if you must. But expect it.
Nothing is sacrosanct that existed before that created thing. No one is safe from it. (And yes, they know this and try to love you anyway, thinking themselves safe and special–almost immune. You think it, too. I think it. They try to stay, to take you as you are, but they know. No excuse can suffice, nor weak justifications satisfy. Lies, yours and mine and theirs, cannot hold. It is what it is: a reality greater than you.) No reward awaits you for admitting, publicly or in private, that there is no depth to which you will not go to defile yourself, all for the creation of a thing.
It’s a violence no one is bound to understand, one done to yourself and to others, existing beyond the limits of perfect conscience, beyond the reach of hand, heart, and mind. A violence that transcends its own inadequate morality, one that leads you to a truth that is even more inadequate: no art, no image, no words, no melody will ever bear the burden that comes from their expression. Instead, it is you who must bear it. This is how it is with something you know will outlive you, outlasting even the impulse of its birth.
I’m thinking of what I’ve caused to bring into this world, and sometimes the enormity of what it cost is too much to bear. But to see what others have not seen, you must either see differently or see different things. Each will lead you away from what, and who, you know. Each will move you, or move others. Each will bring you through the loss, through the blur of your tears, to a dissatisfaction glorious enough to see you create, again, in spite of the cost. You push, though you haven’t seemed to move.
There you sit–between the still life of what you perceive and the afterlife of a thing you have conceived but cannot articulate–understanding that though the cost is great, your creation knows no currency.
It is you who must have the courage, or the desperation, to pay.
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