Cast into a pool of artists the DP “how do you express yourself” seems like facile trolling (although I bow to the intellect that can come up with these prompts day in, day out).
The challenge (head slap) is not to blurt the answer but to scrabble beneath it looking for little nuggets of truth. Which is what got me thinking of Horace. One of his odes has stuck with me since those halcyon school days that were filled with Latin and Greek:
Exegi monumentum aere perennius,
regalique situ pyramidum altius,
quod non imber edax, non Aquilo impotens
possit diruere aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum.
Non omnis moriar
He compares his body of verse to a monument “more lasting than bronze” that will survive the elements and the passage of the seasons. For some reason this has stayed with me when Virgil, Martial, Homer and Herodotus have all faded. Perhaps he was onto something. I’ve ended the quote at “I will not die completely ” and in that Horace has succeeded.
I like making things. Putting something of myself into a vessel, be that literally or figuratively and then gifting them to others. It is in part that memory of Horace that has become a call to action: exegi monumentum aere perennius. A treehouse, a treasure box, a picture, a book, a poem, a story. By gifting them a part of me has been detached, given homes with those I love or complete strangers, and perhaps one day when they are old and grey it is my book that will be pulled down, and a soft look recalled.
Which leads me to an infrequently recurring theme of Harry Potter, Hari Putr as he’d be known in Punjabi. I wonder if JKR was on to something with those horcruxes? Isn’t every work of art, every creation in which we pour a little of ourselves, a means of sustaining life after death? The worms or the fire will claim us, but our works will live on. So here’s the real question: not how do you express yourself, but why? Is it, in the end, when you peel back the layers of slavery to the inspiration, and “I’m compelled to” and all the other arty snake oil, just the basic, visceral desire to live on. A desire, before we get all lofty and call upon Melpomene to crown us with the wreath of Apollo, as Horace did, that we share with every living thing from amoeba upwards.
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