In an essay about Kafka, David Foster Wallace wrote the following words, “the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. […] our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home.”
Now, he was talking about Kafka’s works, but I think that phrase pretty much sums up what art is all about.
As a writer, as an artist, I’m interested in people. It’s not only about empathy, but also about understanding how things work. That’s something you can’t really learn. Or read about in a book. You either have it or you don’t.
Now, about this phrase. The journey, not the destination.
Yes, I believe it’s true, and I believe that the main theme in art could be the question, “who am I becoming?” We’re always in the process of becoming someone, and there’s always something deeply embedded in our soul that remembers us where we came from.
It’s all about the struggle: to establish a human self, to figure out who you are, to figure out who you want to be. To find your place in this world.
There are no trivial pursuits in life. Or art for that matter. They may seems trivial to us, at one point or another, but they’re not.
You know, a lot of people think all these popular novels about vampires are just commercial fiction. Light literature, some of you might call them. But I guess that to a great deal of those who actually wrote them, it’s about some important aspect of their personalities: someone wanting to be immortal, and strong, and fast, and beautiful. That’s a dream. Impossible? Maybe. But a dream nonetheless.
I believe we all write a great deal about ourselves. About our own struggles, about the parts that are missing, or the parts that we think are missing. About what we want or what we need, all that stuff.
In the end, what we write about tells others a great deal about who we are. Maybe more than we could ever be able to tell them directly.
Perhaps it’s all about the struggle. That impossible journey towards a home we dream about, and we can picture it in our heads so clearly, even though we’ve never seen it. Consciously, we don’t know how it looks like. In the day to day world of petty frustrations and stupid arguments, and countless bills and troubles, we don’t have time to see these sorts of things. We don’t have time to figure out who we want to be.
But when we make art, that’s when we can see the dark and twisted road that is our home. Never-ending and cruel, but we’re so certain that we’re headed in the right direction that we can’t help ourselves but smile.