The Art Of Unhappiness
I met Dane Cory about five years ago, he was wearing a black suit and tie and a white shirt, he was a limo driver picking Maria and I up from the airport. We were returning from Florida, where I had given a speech to some veterinarians. Dane was young, in his early 20's. He looked pale and sad to me.
Maria and I both liked him, he told us his passion was to cook, but he seemed unhappy, at odds and ends, it was obvious he suffered from some kind of depression and was looking to find himself. It was obvious he had been through some hard times, and that he did not wish to be a limo driver for long. Maria and I ended up giving him a speech fanatics like us tend to give people once in awhile, if we know they are open about it.
Sometimes I feel like a rabid missionary, waiting for certain souls to come to me in need. Sometimes I hate that. I am an empath, I fear, cursed with the ability to sometimes see the creative spark trapped inside of people, burning like a hot coal.
I remember telling Dane he should follow his heart. He seemed like a creative person, he should try find what he loves and do it. I hate to meet young people who know what they want to do and already feel trapped in the American fear and obligation machine, doing jobs that mean nothing to them for people who care little for them. Living only for money and security, a hollow way to live. Why not be happy and do what you love?, I asked.
I invited Dane to visit Maria and I at the farm, and a few months later, he did. I was surprised to hear from him, and glad to see him. I remember talking with him, sitting with him in the living room, taking him out to lunch at the Round House, which had just opened. We had a good talk, I urged him to consider breaking away from the people holding him back and trying to do what he loved. I did not hear from again, I thought he had not be able to change his life. But his intelligence, sensitivity and obvious creativity made an impression on me. He was special. I often wondered what happened to him.
I remember Dane as a very nice, thoughtful, soft-spoken man, and so sad he seemed almost paralyzed. I had the sense something very powerful was inside of him, literally dying to come out. A part of him had quit on himself, I thought, a part of him was fighting back.
This morning, at 6 a.m., Maria and I were planning to get up, we had so much work to do for the Open House Weekend. Fate was dozing at the foot of the bed, a new thing, we let her up in the middle of the night and she curls up and goes to sleep until daylight.
My phone pinged a message notification, unusual for that time of the morning.
"Hey there, old friend," the message said. "I was your limo driver once upon a time. I saw you on FB and had to contact you. I no longer drive limos. I'm an artist now. Building a business. Working with musicians as well, doing their art. Just wanted to let you know I'll never forget the talks we had and your kindness having me at your place that day. Please tell your wife the same. Maybe we can catch up one time."
I am grateful for this message, it brought me nearly to tears. I woke up Maria to read it to her, we were both so happy to see and hear it.
Dane and I spent the next half hour furiously texting one another, catching up, celebrating how far he had come, understanding the toll it had sometimes taken on both of us to live our lives, making plans to see one another, sharing the details of our work. He had a bunch of my books, he said, but had not read any of them.
It was a strange scene, I was sitting up in bed in my nightshirt, cheering and whooping, Fate at my feet, Red on one side, Maria on the other. These days, people speak for themselves on their blogs, I went right to his. I knew his story while we were still texting.
Dane's blog is called The Art Of Unhappiness, and on it, he tells the story of his very painful depression, of his thoughts of suicide, of being locked up in a mental institution and being encouraged to draw by the nurses there.
His story is harrowing, powerful, honest and inspiring, a tale of creativity and it's power to transform us, a tale of courage as well.
Dane remembers drawing a bee when he was nine, his mother had taken him to a drawing class. He did not draw after that. He did not discover then that he had discovered what he was meant to do then, and then again when he was 29, "inside a psychiatric facility for people that were suicidal."
"Since getting out of the hospital," he wrote, "I have drawn or sculpted every single day and have made such leaps and bounds that it still has not registered inside my brain. My family is blown away. Strangers are blown away. I've won contests, been contacted by galleries and even have my story featured on a major art blog. I have to say, my brain has not caught up with my success at all. Internally, I still live in that hospital. I am still in a great deal of pain daily. But I have an outlet, finally. All my crap has somewhere to go; a place to be filtered and processed into fuel. Every time I sit down it is an emotional experience."
I loved Dane Cory's strikingly original art, he is very good, I think. He said he wanted to look at my blog, and at Maria's. I invited him to the Open House, but he is showing his work this weekend at the Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Clay Arts Center. Dane draws and makes sculptures and designs cover art for the albums of musicians.
it is not possible to enter the lives of other people and change them, they can only do that for themselves. It is arrogant to even try. But sometimes you can plant a seed, a thought, an impulse, that might live inside the soul of another for years, and then, a radioactive seed of memory, it can suddenly light up and grow and free itself. And you.
I am in no way responsible for Dane's success, I know that for sure. But I am very glad I felt this powerful thing inside of him, and spoke to him about it. If you see something, say something. I look forward to seeing him again, he will either come to the farm or I will go and see him, buy him lunch and dinner, toast a glass. We made a real connection with one another, perhaps because we each sensed the broken parts in the other.
On his blog, Dane wrote that "I searched my whole life in every other possible area I could, looking for a spark somewhere, only to be left in the dark every damn time. My spark was there all along."
Hallelujah, brother, Hallelujah. Me too. It's like Picasso said, every child is born an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist when he grows up. The adult world is often in the way of that, they have other ideas for their children. Get a day job. Save for retirement. Be afraid to do what you love, it is never good for you.
You figured this all out in that suicide ward, Dane, and in the valley of pain and sorrow. I can only imagine the loneliness and pain there. Good for you. I look forward to talking with you again. I can tell you that it is possible for even the saddest among us to be happy. Don't give up on it.