I stumbled across an interesting article, “The Alienation of Extraordinary Experiences,”by Tom Jacobs in Pacific Standard. In short, it cites three studies that find while people get an initial rush from extraordinary experiences, these experiences in turn cause them to be separated socially from their peers, and in the long run, instead of feeling special, they feel left out.
Now, we can make exceptions for the Narcissist. They will blather on ad naseum about their “great holiday” and inundate their peers with details never realizing how it separates them socially. But for the rest of us, while friends may be initially delighted at your two-week trip to France, they will likely spend more time talking to their peers who slaved away in their work holes.
“You got a sunburn on the beach at the Rivera? That’s nice. Wish I could do that,” they say. Then, they proceed to discuss the latest HBO death-sex-athon with your other so-called friends, while you sit feeling left out because you didn’t see it. One study cited 17 groups of 4 people, one of whom saw a 4-star film, while the other 3 saw a 2-star clip. Despite having had the better experience, the 4-star viewers reported feeling “excluded during a subsequent social interaction,” which left them “feeling worse than participants who had had an ordinary experience instead.” To make matters worse, while participants expected to feel great during the extraordinary event, they did not expect the negative feelings after, and so, were wholly unprepared for them.
In short, we are such social monkeys, chattering fearfully here on the ground, away from the safety of our trees, that we’d rather be ordinary and socially cloistered than extraordinary and alone. According to the study’s lead psychologist, Gus Cooney, the results demonstrate humans’ “incompatible desires to do what other people have not yet done, and to be just like everyone else.”
By itself, this explains Post-Holiday Blues. We expect to crash when we leave our holiday apartment and have to walk around clothed instead of making naked love on the balcony … er, I mean … you know what I mean. It’s a drag coming home and we know that. What we are unprepared for is the lack of positive feedback from others when we try to share the experiences. Perhaps they are jealous; in all likelihood, however, they simply can’t relate. You want to share how it felt to hang glide over the Andes with all your naughty bits jangling about, and the only stories they have for that week were when the cat puked all over the kitchen table.
So you slink about, feeling like you’ve been brushed out of their lives just a bit. It’s exacerbated by the fact that they don’t seem to give a damn about your life-altering experience that you’re anxious to share. Sound familiar? Of course it does. There’s a reason why celebrities fall prey to depression, drugs, suicide. It’s fun as hell to be rich, but few things are more isolating. The only alternative seems to be the “posse” approach, where you drag your loved ones along for the ride, only to end up as broke as M.C. Hammer at a parachute pants bazaar.
This all felt intuitive and obvious, once someone pointed it out to me. However, being in a Cathartic State of Mind (that’s 50 miles SE of New York, if you’re interested) this also explained ALL of my issues in being an artist. I try to share my art with loved ones, and with almost perfect results, have none of them able to relate. In fact, the more artsy I become, the less they can connect with me. Since I started writing, my closest friends and I stopped being close, and all my new close friends embraced the artist right away.
The new, Artsy me. Just odd, that fellow.
Perhaps the artist’s struggle isn’t the separation, but that we are disappointed that we still wish to belong. Famous people hang out. Writers hang out with other writers, not readers. Bloggers hang out with … computers. But we artists find few who can understand why our latest photo, poem, song, or performance piece is an expression of whom we are inside. When they cannot relate, we die a bit, and when we find we can no longer attach ourselves to their ordinariness, we die again. It is only in the art that we are able to shed these feelings. Perhaps that is why so few gifted souls generate great art throughout their lives. It’s the failure to connect that’s the creative engine. Success breeds acceptance and the desire to produce the mundane works that allow patrons to feel equal to, part of, and not beneath the art.
Shit is good; great is weird.
I suppose I should take solace in that. I do not. I, like most artists, simply wish to be loved for who I am — and my art is precisely that. Accept me or my art, but not both?
Hard to relate.