Music & Poetry: Musings on the Self-Destructive Addiction to Beauty

The artist is the creator of beautiful things.

To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.

The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Beauty attracts.


Regardless of what your definition of ‘Beauty’ is, you can’t deny that this statement holds true. It’s natural. We are attracted to what we find pleasing. Why, then, do we find the painful beautiful? We know it hurts and yet, like a moth to the flame that will burn it, we gravitate towards it. What compels us to subject ourselves to suffering that can easily be avoided?


Music is my flame; both the aural and the literary. There are some pieces that penetrate the very core of my soul and send me into near-crippling despair. I still engage with them. Often, I actively seek them out. It nearly destroys me every time but does it stop me? No. No matter how physically and emotionally painful it is for me, there are some pieces of music or poetry that, as F. Scott Fitzgerald puts it inThe Great Gatsby, has me “borne back ceaselessly into the past.” The worst part: I don’t even try to escape it. Somehow I don’t feel I’m alone in this.


Perhaps it’s because of the deep-seated associations we make between ourselves and the ‘inanimate.’ It’s not the music or the poetry that we find so devastating in its beauty, it’s the association with it that we have made on a largely subconscious level that ruins us. The music or the poetry, then, is harmless in its magnificence but the damage is caused by how we interpret that beauty.At the end of November, three years of planning came together and my parents and I boarded a plane and officially moved to England. After being here for the better part of three weeks, I’m slowly beginning to feel totally comfortable and settle in. But, only having our WiFi set up since yesterday, I haven’t really read any poetry nor listened to any music I collected over the last two decades. Today was the first time I listened to any kind of music. All the emotions came flooding back with a vengeance that would terrify Lucifer.


Honestly, I don’t miss Cape Town. It was years of inaccessibility and a pervading sense of captivity for me. I miss the people (and my old house and high school). Having lived there until less than a month ago, EVERYONE I knew other than the handful that moved to England a couple of years ago, is several thousand miles away. Whoever said that the digital age built bridges between geographical areas was lying. It helped, yes, but technology is a piece of string if anything, not a bridge. I’m not going back to Cape Town, though. Not in any real sense. Frankly, I don’t want to go back to a place that was so inaccessible for me. Yet, I still hear its siren song. The people still remain at the forefront of my mind.

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