The artists that I've always gravitated towards are the hypersensitive ones, those who drink deeply from the well of life, feeling too much of it too often. Before sitting down to write this piece tonight I was moved to browse the Web for articles about Pearl Jam's singer and lyricist Eddie Vedder. I found a particularly poignant one that'd been published only a week after Kurt Cobain's death. It featured some comments from Cameron Crowe, who'd cast Vedder in a bit part in the 1992 movie Singles, an (unintentional) homage of sorts to the then-bursting Seattle music scene.
Crowe described Eddie Vedder as someone who felt life with uncomfortable intensity, someone who was "an open wound, even."
That fairly describes most of the creative people who've ever fascinated me. The hyper-sensitive. The wounded but gifted. I would not only devour their music, poetry, painting - whatever it was that they created out of their pain - but would also learn as much as I could about their lives. When the grunge scene broke I was eager to make music my life, too, so it was easy to explain away my fascination with the movement: I was curious about how these artists had "made it". I've only recently become aware that there was another motivation at work: I was hyper-sensitive myself. I felt too much, too often. I'd been desperately searching for a way to cope with my own sensitivity. I wanted to know how these wounded and gifted artists lived with it.
Of course, many didn't - at least, not for long, according to the standard of an average lifespan. But that just made the ones who did survive all the more intriguing. What did they find? What answer did they cling to in the chill wind of hyper-sensitivity? Or was there no answer? Was their survival just a matter of sheer grit and endurance?
There is a pervasive philosophy that ensures us that the way to cope with sensitivity is to deaden it: with drugs, diversion, obsession, alcohol, indifference. But this is not living with it; it is dispensing with it. Sensitivity - even when it comes at the cost of great suffering - may be all that renders worth to existence in the end. A world in which no one feels outraged over injustice, bereft by loss - where no one loses sleep over the misery and misfortune of others - is a dead world.
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