The Artist as Foolhearted Masochist

broken heartI am reckless.

I don’t mean to be — in fact, I often go out of my way to remind myself not to be. I tell myself to hide, to self-preserve, to keep the strap of the mask tight and the thoughts of my heart impregnable. 

I have spent the better part of my adult life that way. Since I was a teenager I can remember spiritual expectations being placed upon me: I was told I was a leader, an example, a catalyst for the health or detriment of the faith of others. And I was told it didn’t matter whether I chose such a role, it was placed upon me as a kind of divine calling, like Frodo bearing the burden of the One Ring. People were watching, so I’d better keep in step. 

As you can probably imagine, this kind of unasked-for responsibility can mess with a person’s head (especially when he is a mere junior in high school). The result, predictably, has ranged from simple fear-of-man to paralysis, from mask-wearing to rank hypocrisy. Throughout a large portion of my life I have kept a part of myself hidden, and that hidden part has gradually become a bigger and bigger part of who I am.

In short, I am a creative, I am a poet, and I am a hopelessly romantic idealist (I not only watched Letters to Juliet, I wept while doing so. On a plane). This part of me was born back in high school, was hugely fed during the years I lived in Europe, and has been nurtured consistently since leaving my ministry and becoming Catholic a few years ago.

During my tenure as a Presbyterian pastor I felt like it was my job to be a mere head filled with data rather than a heart filled with mercy (and many who got to know this version of me to this day think of me as cold and aloof, utterly lacking in emotional depth). The things I felt, I kept to myself. The struggles I faced, I buried. The doubts I experienced, I suppressed. In fact, I remember a fellow-minister wondering aloud to me whether he would ever find a chink in my armor. 

Becoming a religious civilian has had the effect of enabling me to be a truer version of my real self, of liberating me to express what I feel and think — whether here, on DXP, or elsewhere — with less hand-wringing and worry about what people might think when the image of me they may have entertained is tweaked or perhaps totally shattered. 

And don’t get me wrong, this is not a wholly holy thing. In many ways what has been expressed is ugly, selfish, and sinful. But at least it’s real, at least it’s authentic, at least it’s me. 

Neither has my recent transparency been without consequence (the adverse kind, I mean). In many ways, emerging from the cave and lowering my mask has only spelled hopeless ruin and pain, causing everything in me to want to go back, to retreat, to hide in my old hole and never come back out. I struggle with this kind of despair on an hourly basis. 

But like I said, I am reckless (the mere fact that I am writing this post is proof of my foolish vulnerability and refusal to fully withdraw). I am convinced that it is the artistic side of me that needs self-disclosure, even when all that’s objective is warning me that anything short of callousness-of-heart will only ensure that I remain perpetually wounded and frail. 

But artists are masochists, and don’t feel alive unless they bleed. Literally, sometimes. Metaphorically, always. 

At one point these words struck a chord with me:

Love is cruel and unsafe,

Fraught with danger,

And not for those who fall deep.


For to fall deep is to be exposed

And naked and raw,

And to be those things is to be a fool.


Better to be guarded,

Hunkered down, and alone

Than to be open, real,

And still alone.


Better to be alone

Than to be a lonely fool.


Better still to be shallow.


But I don’t know how.

In many ways these sentiments still resonate. But I don’t want them to. Not anymore. . . .



  1. MelissaMarch 16, 2015

    Fuck, yeah.

    Goddamn beautiful, dude.

  2. JasonMarch 16, 2015

    Thanks, Melissa.

  3. sun_moondia@yahoo.comMarch 17, 2015

    Love to hear the Artist in you, I commend you for your reckless abandon..keep coloring outside the lines.

  4. JasonMarch 17, 2015

    Will do!

  5. […] The Artist as Foolhearted Masochist […]

  6. JimmyMarch 23, 2015

    Let it run ..Thanks !!It means a lot !Fresh and nice!! Fuck yaa!!

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