This is from a paper I wrote this past school year. I do not necessarily believe it is true, but it was a fascinating exercise to think through:
Neither a proverb nor an extremely famous saying, but there is a world-wide known cult saying that has become an example of irony and wit to those who are able to recognize and understand it.
“Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief / All kill their inspiration, and sing about their grief.”
This line is actually from the U2 song, “The Fly.” It has become a staple of their live shows since the song was recorded in 1991, and is known by millions the world over. The song itself is a collection of dark, confusing sayings from a persona, the Fly, created by the lead singer as the ultimate rock star who has sold his soul to the devil. Contradictory proverbs are espoused with the wisdom of youth and the brevity of a man bored. All this from an Irish rock star who grew up, left the Church, and had seen the underbelly of the music industry for over a decade.
The line basically says that nearly every creative person thrives off other’s work as well as the emotional reactions they can gleam from their own soul. Those who are truly desperate to create will steal and kill in order to produce. There is a torturing of self as well as others in order to gain something; art becomes a form of religious sacrifice. You write about what you know…or knew.
Whether or not this idea is true is up for debate. The line comes from a personality that is actively communing with the devil, so you can’t quite trust what this person is saying, even if it gives all appearance of true wisdom. The devil was first quoted as telling Eve the half-truth about the fruit in the Garden; he spoke no lie, but merely a perversion of what God had already said. This line therefore is probably a diabolic mirror of some truth that is known but unspoken in the heart of man.
Every artist probably does not kill their inspiration; if that was the case, the only reason God is dead is because Nietzsche was his biggest fan. This song lyric then would be the rational that drove Mark Chapman to kill John Lennon; he did it out of a perverted sense of love. This obviously is not how most of the rational world does not work. We create tributes to great men and women after they have died, not because we killed them in order to gain inspiration.
While a fantastically witty and deep saying, ultimately this proves to be false. Those who follow this will find themselves increasingly marginalized in society and will be open to all sorts of diabolic suggestions and views.