A fisherman in the Arabian Gulf finds purpose in life by fishing, a Wyoming shepherder by tending his sheep and remaining close to Nature that big sky. On a somewhat higher level intellectually; a person like James Joyce, a profoundly pessimistic man at bottom, could find reason and purpose through these moments of termed "epiphanies," — instances of intense revelation (through love, or a glimpse of transcendental beauty in the natural world) which gave such a sense of joy and self-realization that they justified and, in effect, ratified the existence of him who experienced them. In other words, the existential anguish becomes undone; through moments of aesthetic and spiritual fulfillment we find the very reason for existence.Styron suffered from depression and stopped writing novels in the last 27 years of his life. The passage above is from a new collection of letters. His nonfiction account of suicidal depression is "Darkness Visible."
The letter above goes on to talk about his great novel "The Confessions of Nat Turner." He says:
The creative act in art often approaches this, but it can work on humbler levels as well. If you'll pardon my pointing to my own work, I think I tried to render this quality of revelation — "epiphany" in a part of Nat Turner. I'm thinking of the passage beginning on p. 119 of the Random House edition (you may want to re-read it) where Nat as a little boy is waiting on the table during a spring evening and experiences the combined ecstasy of (a) being alive and healthy in the springtime, (b) being appreciated as a human being, and (c) being given some marvelous unspoken promise about the future. For him at this moment all these things were enough. Existence and its joys justify everything and remain sufficient.That reminds me of the the Dostoevsky quote we've loved so much we have a button: