A writer once said (I don’t remember whom or where) that he no longer listened to the music of Rachmaninoff because he no longer identified with such feelings. The context was the subject of enlightenment.

Rachmaninoff’s music is late romantic, full of emotion and melancholy, not angst so much as personal sadness, what would be called depression today. It has a specific context and became a creative reservoir for him.

To dismiss this music (it is just an example) as immature or narcissistic runs close to the dismisser’s own attitude. Everyone reflects in their “art” or speech or feelings nothing less than the present, and as much as we might summon other people to perfect balance, enough horror transpires in the world that there is plenty of room for melancholy. Creative people may be more prone to taking the full measure of feeling when confronting existence. And creative works appeal to different people in different ways. I don’t want to set up a philosophy of aesthetics so much as a psychology of creativity. Our paths in life are objects of creativity.

I am reminded of Lao-tzu’s saying: “Those who know do not speak. Those who do not know, speak.” The ineffable mystery of anguish and joy is a product of the interplay of yin and yang. To still that process in the self may be the goal, but we are unrealistic — even arrogant — to ignore the place of life, growth, maturity and decay in gripping our minds and hearts.

This experience of anguish and joy is creativity itself, which nudges us along the road of life. Learning to be empty is a great labor, and music can help us understanding things within outselves that we did not know. And having come to know them, we may be able to forget them, but we should never be so flippant as to boast of our having forgotten.