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The Secret Suffering of the Modern Child

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

by Jake Goertzen (1996)


The following is an attempt to provide a context for the body of my art which has to I call "to Love a Child". Many people have reacted warmly and emotionally to the work. One man told me he hardly slept one night thinking about one particular piece. Both men and women have told me they wept over some of the pieces; some when the bond of love in some of the pieces reminded them of how beautiful it might have been. Children react strongly to the art while many adults do not know what to make of it.

I entered two of my pieces in a juried art show with apparently highly qualified jurors. They rejected my work in their detailed critique on technical matters. Their remarks revealed, however, that they had not understood the work. One gallery refused to show my work and had no comment; and a second responded that their staff did not want to look at such depressing work. They wanted to show art that was positive; that there was already too much suffering in the world. If looking at the art is depressing, imagine the life of the child who is living in that reality every day! If art is about anything, it is about the courage to face reality. If it does not have this, it is kitsch or simple decoration.

By providing this context, I will also address the question raised by an analogy someone has used: that our mental health solutions are like fishing bodies out of the river without asking where the bodies are coming from.

The reality is that many of us are deeply unhappy even though we have all the material tokens of happiness. The mask-like faces on every street, the sadness in our faces, the absence of real conviviality in our social life, the excessive commercialization of so many human endeavors, and the breakdown in our family and social relationships betray us. The soul of western man is in quite a desperate condition. We are living in the hell which reason alone produces, as William Blake foresaw so clearly. We live without vision, without much feeling, without meaning, without heart and soul. This includes many people who are believers. As a therapist I hear some people professing belief, yet when they begin to bare their souls many soon offer that their lives are meaningless and they make no references to their faith. We have lost sight of our creative imagination which arises out of an integration of body, emotion, mind and spirit. We have lost the sense of our own divinity. We work out problems with our intellect rather than our hearts and create more problems than before which again we try to solve with intellect rather than heart. So we are busy going in circles.

If we continue as we are going, treating each other and our Mother Earth as we do, our species may not survive at all. And if it does, it will be worse than any 1984 nightmare we can invent, because we have forgotten how to live in harmony with the earth and each other: Hell on earth.

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