Thursday, February 7, 2013

In search of tranquility

Sonnet 23: For beauty's pattern to succeeding men.
I have already mentioned some parallels arising from reading simultaneously two books, one about Lucretius (and so, about Epicurus as well), the other, by Kandinsky. Today's post is about a painfully relevant question -- probably as old as the humankind itself, but highlighted and stressed by a contrast between them. Here is this question, in short:

Can an artist lead a happy, tranquil life, filled with peace, and avoiding pain?   
For Epicurus (as far as his teachings can be recovered), the answer is a resounding Yes, because this is the highest possible goal for every human being. No exceptions, since there are no gods, and so our pleasure and pain are the only measures of good and evil.

For Kandinsky, the answer is a resounding No. It would be, in fact, taking an easy road towards burying one's talent (in the Biblical sense). The talent is a heavy burden, which prohibits the path to tranquility and to pain avoidance: otherwise, this burden would simply drown you and drag your soul down to your own personal hell.    

This last line might seem to resolve the difference: after all, if there is this hell in the end of the path, it isn't a path to tranquility to begin with. But one usually doesn't know what lies at the end of the road; we can but see a few steps (there are, of course, other people's recorded experiences, but the youth tends not to believe in them and prefers to learn from one's own mistakes). 

I have my own answer, and my own way to reconcile the contradiction (because, ultimately, both of them are right, I think). But, in the end, this remains a question everyone must answer for themselves, whether they want it or not.  

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