“Behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern…the whole world is a work of art… there is no Shakespeare… no Beethoven…no God; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.”
“Only art penetrates … the seeming realities of this world,” Saul Bellow asserted in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. “There is another reality, the genuine one, which we lose sight of. This other reality is always sending us hints, which without art, we can’t receive.” Pablo Neruda illuminated this notion from another angle in his magnificent metaphor for why we make art, but the questions of what compels artists to reach for that other reality and how they go about it remains one of the greatest perplexities of the human experience.
No one has addressed this immutable mystery with more piercing insight than Virginia Woolf (January 25, 1882–March 28, 1941). In one of the most breathtaking passages ever written, found in her Moments of Being (public library) — the magnificent posthumous collection of Woolf’s only autobiographical writings — she considers what made her a writer and peers into the heart of the sensemaking mechanism we call art.