Though he wouldn't define it as such, Martin Luther is a person I consider to have lived a life devoted to ideas. Yet if you read biographies on him, you learn that in the latter parts of his life he was often sick and in serious pain.
For my I don't think there was ever a better novelist than Dostoevsky. He had epilepsy throughout his life.
Even if we are devoted to art, to ideas, to God, to anything beyond our material existence, we still have these bodies and these afflictions. We can't pretend that the physical pains that a person endures doesn't affect his or her life in ideas.
But what of mental afflictions?
I have obsessive-compulsive tendencies along the pure obsessive variety. Last summer I had obsessive fears that I'll be arrested for something I didn't really do and be taken to prison away from my family (this has got to be some pent up guilt about something, right?). Those fears have largely passed and now seem immaterial and distant--but at the time they consumed my mind, dominating my day to day thought, and they do occasionally (and briefly) pop up again. Lately certain words that I don't like to think keep popping into my head though I don't want them to--that's the form it's been taking. I can't control my own thoughts--the words just pop into my consciousness without my control.
Today something else is happening. I had a bad dream last night--I dreamt that I went to work and left my son at home in his crib, thinking my wife had taken him to daycare, and not realizing it until I was a half hour from home. It was a horrifying dream--I felt relief when I woke, and I checked on him still. And today, though I have distinct, specific memories of taking my son to daycare, though I even have material evidence that I was at the daycare facility, though I can think on the specific details of everything I did with him this morning, somehow my dream is lingering. Somehow I fear that I've botched things badly. That I forgot him. That I imagined taking him to daycare. Somehow the dream I had is more real than the reality I experienced this morning.
So that's my cross to bear--I get obsessive and consumed with thoughts I don't want to think about, thoughts that really attack and drain on me.
But...isn't neurosis part of a life in ideas, too? Would a Woody Allen movie be quite the same if he didn't have certain psychological hangups? Would Seinfeld even work if not for the insecurities and paranoia of George Costanza? What of the literature of Poe, of Hemingway? Aren't all our psychological hangups and disorders just a part of it all?