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Questioner: Expression seems to me so important. I must express myself as an artist otherwise I feel stifled and deeply frustrated. Expression is part of one’s existence. As an artist it is as natural that I should give myself to it as that a man should express his love for a woman in words and gestures. But through all this expression there is a sort of pain which I don’t quite understand. I think most artists would agree with me that there is deep conflict in expressing one’s deepest feelings on canvas, or in any other medium. I wonder if one can ever be free of this pain, or does expression always bring pain?
Krishnamurti: What is the need of expression, and where does the suffering come into all this? Isn’t one always trying to express more and more deeply, extravagantly, fully, and is one ever satisfied with what one has expressed? The deep feeling and the expression of it are not the same thing; there is a vast difference between the two, and there is always frustration when the expression doesn’t correspond to the strong feeling. Probably this is one of the causes of pain, this discontent with the inadequacy of the utterance which the artist gives to his feeling. In this there is conflict and the conflict is a waste of energy. An artist has a strong feeling which is fairly authentic; he expresses it on canvas. This expression pleases some people and they buy his work; he gets money and reputation. His expression has been noticed and becomes fashionable. He refines it, pursues it, develops it, and is all the time imitating himself. This expression becomes habitual and stylized; the expression becomes more and more important and finally more important than the feeling; the feeling eventually evaporates. The artist is not left with the social consequences of being a successful painter: the market place of the salon and the gallery, the connoisseur, the critics; he is enslaved by the society for which he paints. The feeling has long since disappeared, the expression is an empty shell remaining. Consequently even this expression eventually loses its attraction because it had nothing to express; it is a gesture, a word without a meaning. This is part of the destructive process of society. This is the destruction of the good.
Questioner: Can’t the feeling remain, without getting lost in expression?
Krishnamurti: When expression becomes all-important because it is pleasurable, satisfying or profitable, then there is a cleavage between expression and feeling. When the feeling is the expression then the conflict doesn’t arise, and in this there is no contradiction and hence no conflict. But when profit and thought intervene, then this feeling is lost through greed. The passion of feeling is entirely different from the passion of expression, and most people are caught in the passion of expression. So there is always this division between the good and the pleasurable.
Questioner: Can I live without being caught in this current of greed?
Krishnamurti: If it is the feeling which is important you will never ask about expression. Either you have got the feeling or you haven’t. If you ask about the expression, you are not asking about artistry but about profit. Artistry is that which is never taken into account: it is the living.
Questioner: So what is it, to live? What is it to be, and to have that feeling which is complete in itself? I have now understood that expression is beside the point.
Krishnamurti: It is living without conflict.