Balancing Laughter and Tears in Life and the Arts

Having just watched Saving Mr Banks, brought it home to me how finely tuned contrasting emotions must be. Not just in a script or a book: this is something vital to humans. We’ve always known that, and we’ve always tried to suppress this knowledge.

Where does it start and where does it end? This search for ― for what? A balance between laughter and tears? If it was just that, it’d be easy. Easy to pinpoint a mystery that will always challenge and baffle us. What is it that brings us to split our sides laughing and cry at the same time? What is it, if it isn’t life at its purest.

The question is: how can one person put life in words? How can we create something so magical? We strive to do our best and sometimes fate bestows a gift. Mostly we just plod along searching in a mirror, darkly. What we try to find, is meaning. When everything comes together in the art, we get the feeling that we understand the biggest question of all. Why are we here? That is why we need the arts. We pour out our souls and innermost being to find this elusive balance and sometimes we have that spark. Even if it is only for a fraction of a second, we recognize it, and for that split second the world makes sense. We see that human beings mean to do right. We see that everybody works towards the same goal. It’s just confusion when we believe that we must stamp on other people’s toes or take away something from one another to fulfil our ambition and make sense of the senseless.

Mostly, we shy away from trying. It’s easier to make do. It is simpler to mock a search for the sublime. Sublime is scary. It’s easier to ridicule those who search and don’t find. Sadly, when we don’t start searching, we end up in frustration and tedium. This is true in life as in the arts. It is easier to go with the stream than to set out to find the sublime.

Is it necessary to give examples? While I wrote the above my mind was all over the place, from the bible to HC Andersen, from Disney to Greek tragedy, and to Shakespeare. That can be added when it’s time to publish.

It’s been a good day. The only thing missing would be working on my next book. It’s in the back of my head but must come to the fore. Tomorrow the main object will be household matters and economy, but it should be possible to find an hour at some point. I’ll do what I can. There it is again: What’s more important? Tax and accounts or writing? Writing is more important to me, but the world (or at least society and the council) expects me to sort out my tax return, keep my economy under control, pay my bills, and clean my house, clothes, and ― god knows what else. Where is the balance? Up in the air? Or crawling on the ground? How can anyone be expected to find the sublime at the bottom of a dustbin? Yet, it doesn’t matter. Everyone meets the sublime sometime. Somewhere. Will they recognize the moment? That’s the question. Is life about feeding the birds for tuppence a bag, or is it about putting the said tuppence in the bank and see it accumulate money? The choice is ours. It is a heavy responsibility.

Perhaps the Buddha had the right idea. Shake the dust off your feet and chose non-existence. Perhaps, that isn’t a choice we can consciously make. Perhaps it is a leap of faith, but who has faith these days? In a world where the oceans choke on plastic, in a world where religious and political factions kill each other and leave fugitives to starve or die, we may not have the luxury to believe. Do you believe that mermaids can attain a soul? Do you believe in fairies? Then clap.



© HMH, 2018







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