|Salvador Dalì - The Persistence of Memory|
True, I wrote something about memory a few weeks ago, but it was a purely technical post, a rather impersonal one, which began with the lofty tones of a scientific dissertation and ended with questions that have now become, for me, an almost desperate plea to know and to understand.
So, I had decided I would never publish anything else on the matter until at least one doubt could be sorted out.
Then I started reading Marcel Proust's Swann's Way, the first volume of his titanic work Remembrance of Things Past. I had waited thus far before devoting myself to it; I did not want to be simply stirred by curiosity, but I wanted the push to come from an inner need. This is how I usually approach any books.
From the very first page, I could see how daring Proust had been, laying himself before his memories, either the glorious or painful ones. Then, I shamefully realized that my decision of not writing about it or anyway sticking to an impersonal approach was not just dictated by my usual attempts at trying to come to an all-comprising and complete system, to then and only then write about it; my reluctance was rather dictated by pure and utter fear.
It is the fear of entering a realm - that of memory and the emotions that arise from it - where the lack of control once we step in is confirmed by the words of the greatest psychologists and psychiatrists that ever lived, not to mention my personal experience which, when all is said and done, counts a lot to me.
I thought about Strasberg's assumption that, as long as we work with memories older than seven years, there is nothing to worry about. Yet, I know by direct and indirect experience that older memories and long-gone events can affect us emotionally in just as uncontrolled a way as an event that happened the day before.
Moreover, the human soul is by its own nature inclined to find much deeper inspiration in pain rather than happiness.
Marilyn Monroe, beautifully portrayed by Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn, was a profoundly unhappy person; Stephen King witnessed the violent death of a friend at a very young age. Although he reportedly has no memory of the event, the most basic notions of psychology tell us that it is still there, repressed somewhere in his unconscious, gnarling and twisting. Jim Carrey suffered from scattered but intense bouts of depression. Vittorio Gassman spent his last years merged in a profound mal d'etre.
I cannot believe there is no relation between their state and their work as actors.
Acting, writing, painting, composing and playing music, are experiments of the soul. We must be open to inspiration, no matter where we get it from; but there's a degree of caution we should take as for how we get it. Psychoses and, in the best scenarios, neuroses, are there, constantly lurking to affect the methodless and those who are not in control.
Can we be creative and be inspired without vowing ourselves to unhappiness, I wonder.