Loneliness and Longing

ART, the ORGANISM, Loneliness, and Longing

Mary once said. “We have needs, wants, desires, and then there is this other thing … and this is important, so pay attention: before the big bang, before time itself, before matter, energy, velocity, there existed a single immeasurable state called yearning. This is the special force that on the day before days obliterated nothing into everything. It is the unseen strings tying planets to stars. It is the maddening want we feel from first breath to last light.”

(1)(voiceover by (character) Mary Shannon at the end of an episode of “In Plain Sight.”)

Things–all things–are, as we are becoming acutely aware, connected and when we ask WHY a person performs an otherwise inexplicable behavioral patterns, if we follow the path of connections, we can often say “BECAUSE THEY ARE LONELY.”  This is implicit the biological need for SOCIALIZATION, the quality of which is our ability to manifest what is unique within us, our INDIVIDUATION. (look at A&O notes on individuation and socialization) …

One of the catchphrases that we see often in Art & Organism refers to a need we can view as biologists: “to know and to be known”  (balancing individuation and socialization throughout development)  

With respect to knowing one’s self, look in on our A&O webnotes on SELF.    Then respond like a DEEP ethologist to what has been called “the perennial problem of the artist” –some tension (an “essential tension”?) between one’s work (such as “the artist’s work”) done for some private need and the “crown bestowed or denied by the fickle tastes of a contemporary public.”     Maria Popova reminds us that acclaim (or lack thereof) “has little bearing on how the work itself will stand the test of time as a vessel for truth and beauty, whether it will move generations or petrify into oblivion. Walt Whitman nearly perished in obscurity when his visionary Leaves of Grass was first met with scorn and indifference. Emily Dickinson, virtually unpublished in her lifetime, never lived to see her work transform a century of thought and feeling.”   [is the longevity of one’s idea or work of art a version of “fitness” as a biologist understands it? ] 

  • “In our own culture, obsessed with celebrity and panicked for instant approval, what begins as creative work too often ends up as flotsam on the stream of ego-gratification — the countless counterfeit crowns that come in the form of retweets and likes and best-seller lists, unmoored from any real measure of artistic value and longevity. How, then, is an artist to live with that sacred, terrifying uncertainty with which all creative work enters the world, and go on making art?”
    • [Here is where I find a kind of comfort in Emerson’s “Circles:” “… Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.”   You cannot know if and where the ripples will end … will have their effect on the future.


  • relevant snip of conversation  “Hello stranger  //  Well, hello there stranger // Have you lived here all your life? // Not yet!” (enshrined in a lyric by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman (Arkansas Traveler

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(1) (Mary’s voiceover at the end of an episode of “In Plain Sight.”)

Professor Emeritus, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.