Herman Melville & Me: Wisdom.
“There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness."
(from "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville)
I must not try too hard to further clarify this idea from Herman Melville. it feels so very right to me. Making art is seeking wisdom within a madness that is always present in living with our myriad of limitations. We are limited by everything, from life span to perception, comprehension, and understanding. It is maddening, and it is woe, but it is because of the woe that I make art. The wisdom that "is a woe" is acceptance of consistent failure. A work of art never quite gets there, it always falls short of true expression of knowledge and feelings. Accepting this is the wisdom that drives one back to make art, always seeking closure, always seeking to get to full and correct expression.
At the bottom of today's post the Herman Melville quote is given with its entire paragraph from Moby Dick. The quote's meaning deepens when in full context.
“There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.”
-Herman Melville, from "Moby Dick"
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