Inspired by the bleakness and bliss of love

Torbay Weekly

The more I write, the more I learn about myself and, consequently, the more others learn about me.

Family and friends have archly remarked on occasion that they need to read my weekly column to find out what I have been up to.

I am gradually adjusting to my burgeoning exposure and self-awareness, but I am by nature quite a private person, reluctant to reveal too much personal detail until l am comfortable in someone's company.

This reticence is at total odds with my innate and inexhaustible nosiness about other people's lives, which are a source of endless fascination and conjecture.

I have written previously about the human condition and its relentlessly compelling appeal, but I myself am reluctant to open myself up to the scrutiny and curiosity of others.

I harbour a deep admiration of and appreciation for those willing to show such vulnerability, however; without the myriad folk steadfastly wearing their hearts on their sleeves, the world would be a much poorer place - artistically speaking, in particular.

And it's often darker feelings that are stoically put on display: out of great emotional and spiritual torment can emerge intense magnificence and wonder.

Take Vincent Van Gogh, for example: a tortured soul if one ever lived.

His exquisite interpretation of the sky in The Starry Night and its translation onto canvas is radiant and mesmerising; it speaks of great beauty of spirit.

Through his work, Van Gogh revealed a fragile perspective, anxiously proffering it to the unwavering - and potentially devastatingly critical - gaze of others.

The Starry Night was created while its suffering artist was being detained in an asylum, his mental health in a perilous state.

But even in this most raw and fragile frame of mind, the glory inside Van Gogh shone irrepressibly through, demanding our attention and adulation then and ever since.

When I was younger, I liked to fill notebooks with quotes that I had heard or read which especially moved me.

From Shakespeare to The Carpenters, I scribbled down phrases and lyrics that spoke to me of love and loss and life, each a privileged peek behind the curtain of a private party.

Their authors had chosen to peel back the veneer of thick-skinned doggedness we necessarily cultivate to negotiate the rollercoaster journey we make from birth to death, exposing their tender inner self to the world - a brave choice, and a laudable one, because their courageous self-expression has created an emotional banquet for millions of hungry souls.

At home recently, we have been listening almost incessantly to a particular album, at the behest of the children, music written by a young lady in the throes of heartbreak.

The emotions running through the songs range from regret to rage to self-realisation, but there are moments of true gentleness and compassion that remind the listener that even broken hearts have an enduring, almost helpless capacity for love of all kinds.

As I listen to the lyrics, which show great eloquence in places, I am struck by the youth and rawness of the voice narrating their story, moved to wonder to myself if, in time, the artist will be suffused with remorse for laying bare her inner life on such a public platform.

Perhaps somewhat cynically, I imagine the revenue being generated by the album, which has been phenomenally successful and promises longevity, will go some way to mitigate any future regret; but in any case I hope the artist will always experience a quiet pride for her bravery in allowing the outside world to perceive her pain.

From the early beginnings of popular music, the most successful and enduring songs have been inspired by the bleakness and bliss of love.

And even before love songs existed, there were passages of music in instrumental works that were threaded through with an almost unbearable sweetness and poignancy, so deeply are they rooted in human feeling and the need to express it.

It is an enviable gift, the ability individuals possess to move others with their talents; a glimpse of a loveliness too powerful to contain - a glimpse, perhaps, of the divine.

We should all be persuaded, from time to time, to open our hearts and set free the beauty hidden inside; I suspect it will not soar alone.