|Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.|
– Pablo Picasso
Have you heard the quote:
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
What do you think of the idea that we are spiritual beings having a human experience? Does it speak to you?
I’ve tended to put more value on the spiritual, immaterial aspects of life, perhaps as a result of finding my human existence confusing and unsatisfying. I’m finally understanding how those feelings arose and learning to enjoy and appreciate the more human, physical aspects of existence. But most of my life has been dominated by a sense of meaninglessness and a restless search for meaning through constant study, observation and exploration, scrambling to keep my head above water and, in moments of despair, wanting to give up and ‘start fresh’.
The time when the feeling of meaninglessness and sadness would come up most strongly for me was my birthday. And so it was, on a recent trip to Sydney for my birthday, when I felt myself drowning in the existential void, that I got a glimpse into a new perspective on ‘meaning’.
A heavy blanket of sadness hung over me as I set out on a day of adventure with Joey, traversing Sydney by scooter. Thankfully Joey seemed oblivious to my feelings and I was somewhat buoyed by enjoying a day of connection and play with him. From Bondi beach we rode into the city. At Hyde Park we looked down into a war memorial artwork where Joey searched for and joyfully spotted Dorrigo, Bellingen, Urunga and Fernmount among the places where fallen soldiers had hailed from. He proudly posed in front of a sculpture of giant bullets while I took a photo. And we glided past the Archibald Fountain and through the Domain, en route to the Botanic Gardens and Circular Quay. As we passed the Art Gallery, Joey agreed to a short visit inside.
One of the ways I’ve sabotaged myself this lifetime has been judging my artistic dabblings as selfish and indulgent. But as I walked into the gallery carrying the ‘weight of emptiness’ I felt a sense of peace. I had a realisation, as I looked at the artworks, that this is meaning. It felt like a breakthrough – an almost defiant acceptance that ‘art’ is a valid and worthy response to existence. With art, spirit meets matter and the world and our human experience is explored. There will always be people who judge art .. particularly given it is often hard to understand and far removed from the practicalities of life. To a hard-nosed realist, art can be hard to rationalise or justify. But there is more to life than basic survival needs. Art can be transcendental.
When I studied architecture, personal preference was not allowed as a reason for doing something. Everything had to be justified. And perhaps learning to justify my ideas has been an important lesson for me. I feel like armouring myself against critics through gathering information and understanding different perspectives has driven a lot of my life and held me back from taking action. I’ve given so much power to critics, including a very harsh inner critic who was more powerful and destructive than any person ever could be.
I used to admire critics for their boldness and confidence in their beliefs and their bravery to take a stand and declare what they believed in. I valued the opinions of others highly and often to my own detriment.
Though I’ve tended to wait for clarity before taking action, I’ve learned that clarity comes from action. And having spent too much of my life influenced (and stopped) by the opinions of others, I feel like I know enough of what I need to know to work things out in my own way. After all ..
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is not effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.– Theodore Roosevelt
Here’s to imperfect action – critics be damned :)
What are you striving for? Let me know so I can cheer you on!