There is a moment that comes while experiencing any truly great work of art that alters the purview of the observer in a way that makes the moment both ephemeral and forever. It is a moment that is known well by those who understand art, and they know it not for its distinctive prowess, its ability to elicit a stirring of emotion, but rather for the fact that it builds and has been building since the start of our births. It has been waiting for us, hiding itself in the scenery and the spaces between numbered lines, casting itself in bronze so that, when we are finally able to admire it, to reach out and hold it for but a fleeting second, we will never forget what we were. And so we are touched, and we find rest in a place that feels familiar, some place that we have known all along. This moment is earned from those days marked by conviction and sweat and sinewy thoughts wrapped tight around our desire to be. 

So often as artists, as readers or observers, we acknowledge our desire to create or unearth something true, but we find that this comes into conflict with our need to force its approval onto others. We want to make something that the rest of creation can gaze upon and determine that it too is good, something that will allow us to converse with the gods with whom we silently compete. The goal is for beauty, it always has been. But what we find is that too often our creation is muddled by those questions that, as artists, we wish to eschew: we want the conversation, but the conclusion could strike us down. So we attempt to chase something that we ourselves cannot define and entrust others to define it for us. But in doing this, we lose the thing that we wish most to hold, we lose that part of ourselves that we have always hid and so we are lost. The word is now rendered meaningless.

So we have to look to something else, to a phrase, and this phrase is one of the few things able to rectify the distance between art and everything else. Art has always struggled to convey its importance and necessity to the world around it, but the problem has been that artists can never quite put into language what this importance is. They only know how to give examples, how to recognize art’s effects and hardships. But it has always been the belief among artists that they would be the ones to define this phrase, and they have done the most by way of painting its portrait: the human condition. It is the human aspect that makes this phrase difficult to contextualize. We have enough difficulty attempting to understand ourselves as it is.

It is here that we find the intersection between the human condition and beauty, here that we find some sort of reconciliation between the importance of public consideration and our own understanding. It is far too easy for us in our creating and spectating to hide those parts of us that we know well: the ugly, those parts that are deformed and rotted. Because we know what they mean and we know what they look like. But no matter how we wish to conceal them from ourselves, they are still in us, and they mean more than we can know.

For one of the most revealing aspects of our humanity is in our knowing how something feels, distinctly. Our ability to be fully immersed and cognizant of what it is that fills us at any given time. The best artists are the ones who are able to make us feel their emotions distinctly too. And what they show us is that the condition of being human may be without cure, but it is not without relief. And it is in those moments that we find ourselves whole again, that we find some sort of meaning; it is in the pursuit of this truth that we find our beauty, not the other way around. Because the fact of the matter is that, even though we fail in our attempts, our failures still have their successes. We are not beautiful creatures, but we can be: it is in the discovery of these truths that we find the moments that are able to change us. 

So perhaps it is like the great poet once said. Perhaps everything that frightens us is something helpless that wants our love. Perhaps the parts of us that terrify us the most are the parts that are the most desperate for reconciliation, but we cannot know that yet. What comes next is the attempt to live the questions, because it is only through this attempt that we can say that we are living at all. 

And maybe, if we are lucky, we will experience the answers.

Zachary Nickels

Zachary Nickels
Editor in Chief