Great artists pull inspiration from the collective reservoir of human suffering. In their works we recognize our own secret pain. The words, images, therein we see our own losses reflected, pulled straight from our memories by fingers more dexterous than even their owners realize.
"Why does this feel so familiar?" We wonder when first reading a poem.
"Why do I know this face?" We ponder, tracing ancient hieroglyphs.
We stand in a garden, arranged and tended with the utmost care, and weep, haunted by a specter we cannot name. Visited by memories capering just out of reach. Thus is the true nature of creation, its opposite.
Great artists know, though perhaps they cannot say quite what they know, that every idea has already been had, every loss already suffered. We, the living, imitate a long line of men and women who slid before us into the night. One by one, we follow into that darkness and add to the pool from which all great works are drawn. Our faces become those who haunt our loved ones from within the sketches of a stranger, or the dead eyes of worn statuary.
Such is the purpose of art. To keep alive the departed, to remember and remind that those who are gone still remain. Mere phantoms perhaps, mere inspiration in the mind of another, but they remain nonetheless.
Such is the purpose of the artist. To recreate that which is already done for the eyes of their own generation, and every generation thereafter. To further feed the ouroboros of ideas.
Such is the purpose of humankind. To cannibalize the past in service of the future.