Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A case of "wit of the staircase"

I recently read this piece on a NYC-based art world "it" couple's twin suicides. A multitude of thoughts and questions ensued as I read about their lives and the progression of events leading up to their deaths. My initial notion was that of their being a highly romanticized, contemporary version of Romeo and Juliet. Like Romeo and Juliet, at least one of two seems to have perceived themselves to be "doomed", with the other confidently and quickly concluding that life without their departed lover was simply not an option. These were talented artists that had earned more recognition for their work than what most with similar aspirations do. They were in love, intelligent, and had the ability to carve out success for themselves in a different niche, even if the transient dotings of LA and its film industry didn't materialize. They had a vast network of friends and contacts, as well as numerous viable projects to engage their creativity in. But I wonder if the same traits that oftentimes characterize a talented artist or creator - ambition, acute perception, sensitivity, and the ability to become so enamored by and engrossed in a particular subject or issue that it borders on obsession - spiraled into the paranoia and exasperation that made death seem like the only reprieve.

I realize these observations are based on a very limited perspective of these individuals' lives - the facts are those of a third-party publication. But my overarching observation (and question) is universal (and not strictly related to this couple); why does it oftentimes appear that many of the artists, philosophers, scientists and intellectuals so blessed with their respective talent are also cursed with an almost poetic propensity to have that genius turn on them and morph into insanity, depression, or other form of mental distress? You might argue that there's no evidence that these two were insane - merely haunted or troubled - but to be capable of committing suicide, you have to at least be in such a state of mental distress or depression to make that conclusive action appear to offer the only respite.

Is depression/mental distress simply one of the potential side-effects of genius? Of thinking and questioning too much, having too much imagination, and being too sensitive to both the most beautiful and ugliest aspects of humanity? Is it a chemical imbalance substantiated as both excessive intelligence and the absense of resilience? At what point does intelligence, sensitivity or genius derail and spiral into those darkest and seemingly hopeless of places?

Perhaps that's one too many questions from this oftentimes overly-analytical blogger - particularly when I can't supply my own answers. Though far from "genius", I think I'll continue to temper my own intelligence, musings and theories with a shot of idealism and hope, and with the acceptance that life has both light and dark - but the choice to focus on the (greater instance of) good will always help illuminate those darker corners.