Art v Responsibility

In the book ‘U2 by U2’, Bono speaks about the song ‘With or without you’:

“The lyric is pure torment. One of the things that was happening at the time was the collision in my own mind between being faithful to your art or faithful to your lover. What if the two are at odds? Your gift versus your domestic responsibility? […] I remember thinking: ‘Is the life of an artist? Am I going to have kids and settle down and betray my gift or am I going to betray my marriage?'”

Adopting ‘art’ to mean the broadest sense of the word – our passions and raison d’etre – I suspect many of us feel this conflict and some of us are deeply affected by it. Fortunately Bono goes on to answer to his own question:

“I thought these tensions were going to destroy me but actually, in truth, it is me. The tension, it turns out, is what makes me an artist. Right in the centre of a contradiction, that’s the place to be. […] If I had cut loose, what would have become of me? I remember looking at [artists who had] acted with abandon, and had lost marriages, bands, friendships, all in pursuit of the muse. But the muse is taciturn and can abandon you, leaving you with nothing. My muse has different demands. If I’d gone that route, many of my best songs would have gone unwritten. Or if I’d taken the other road, which is straightforward, given myself over to the domestic side of life, the songs would have been lost. It’s the tension between the two that keeps me sharp. You don’t have to resolve them, just don’t go too far either way.”

I suppose this is one aspect of maturity – to be content with and use this tension rather than go to extremes to avoid it. No doubt the angst in the meantime is another dip to push through in order to be successful in both aspects of our lives.