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Turning Pain Into Art

I’m reading this book by Susan Cain called Bittersweet and she starts with a story about the death of 22 people during the civil war in Sarajevo in 1992.

Minnow Park
Minnow Park
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I’m reading this book by Susan Cain called Bittersweet and she starts with a story about the death of 22 people during the civil war in Sarajevo in 1992.

They were killed by a mortar shell as they were lined up in front of a bakery for bread. Vedran Smailović, a cellist who lived nearby, came out the next day dressed in his concert attire and played Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor. He would play for 22 days straight in front of the bakery. The fighting was still going around him yet he continue to play.

My question is, why?

In the face of such horror and death, playing classical music feels like the least important thing to do. For you, the least important thing to do may be a drawing a picture, or designing a website, or building a company. For me it’s writing; doing this very thing you’re reading right now.

Cain calls what we are feeling: This pain of knowing this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be and the longing for things to be better, bittersweet.

Smailović also felt this, but why did he respond by playing music? Put another way, why should we keep showing up and doing our creative work?

Cain’s writes this feeling of bittersweet isn’t just a momentary feeling.

It’s also a quiet force, a way of being, a storied tradition–as dramatically overlooked as it is brimming with human potential. It’s an authentic and elevating response to the problem of being alive in a deeply flawed yet stubbornly beautiful world.

Most of all bittersweetness shows us how to respond to pain: acknowledging it, and attempting to turn it into art, the way the musicians do, or healing, or innovation, or anything else that nourishes the soul.

…If we realize that all humans know—or will know—loss and suffering, we can turn toward each other.

Yes, we need policy change. Yes, we need to protect the ones most vulnerable. But we also desperately need to help each other process and heal.

And so, I want to encourage you (and myself) to keep creating, to keep building, to keep doing the work you feel called to do.

Keep creating and sharing your art because that’s how we feel less alone, how we connect with each other, and how we feel a deeper sense of belonging.

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