By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 25, 2011
The Gnostics believed that exile was the psychological condition of the human being. It certainly feels that way to me.
One panel of Hieronymus Bosch's "Haywain Triptych."
We’ve been talking about artists and addicts for the past couple of weeks. Not every artist is an addict, and certainly not every addict is an artist. But it seems to me that both share an acute, even excruciating sensitivity to the pain of being human—and both actively seek ways to overcome it, transcend it, or at least make it go away.
What is the pain of being human? To me, it’s the condition of being suspended between two worlds and being unable to fully enter into either. We can’t reach the upper realm (that belongs to the gods) but we can’t forget it either; we can’t escape intimations and half-memories of … what? Some prior sojourn, before birth perhaps, among the immortals or the stars.
Our lot instead is to dwell in the lower realm, the sphere of the temporal and the material—the timebound dimension of instincts and animal passions, of hate and desire, aspiration and fear. We’re called to the upper realm (and it is calling to us) but we’re having a pretty good time (sometimes) down here in the sphere of the senses. Bottom line: we’re marooned in the middle, stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again. (more…)
By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 18, 2011
The artist and the addict are not very far apart, are they? Often they’re one and the same. A blues musician or a painter can be an addict one minute and an artist the next. He can be an artist and an addict at the same time. On Tuesday you’re rocking the casbah; on Wednesday you’re checking in to Betty Ford. Why is that?
“It may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
If Bob Dylan is right in Gotta Serve Somebody (and I think he is), we all do have to pick our masters. The question is whom. (more…)
By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 11, 2011
Have you ever noticed that addicts are often extremely interesting people?
Addiction itself is excruciatingly boring, in that it’s so predictable. The lies, the evasions, the transparent self-justification and self-exoneration. But the addict himself is often a colorful and compelling person. His story reads like a novel, packed with drama, intrigue, conflict and heartbreak. If the addict’s drug of choice is alcohol, the narrative is frequently one of job loss, domestic abuse, divorce, abandonment of children, bankruptcy. If Class One narcotics are the culprit, the tale often includes crime, the law, violence, even death.
Of course we fallible mortals can be addicted to a lot of things. To love, to sex, to worship of our children or parents, to dominance, to submission. We can even be addicted to ourselves (check the manual under “self-iconization,” e.g. Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump.) Such individuals can be absolutely fascinating at the same time that they’re boring as hell.
What’s the connection between addiction and Resistance? (more…)