It is popular to say — so that no one feels bad — “We are all artists!”
But we’re not, really, any more than that we are all physicists, or all machinists, or all five star chefs. Art, like any profession, requires discipline, study, aptitude, perseverence, and work, and I’ve delved into this more deeply in We Are Not All Artists, (Epoch Times, June 13, 2011).
But not to despair — while there may not be an artist within each of us, there is art, and each one of us is an individual, created work of beauty that may or may not look attractive to the world outside. It all depends, really, with what we do with the inside of ourselves.
When an artist paints or sculpts a subject, he spends time looking at the subject, studying it, with the goal of translating the essence of that subject to the canvas or the clay. The more successfully the artist 1) figures out the subject and 2) tranlslates it to artistic form, the more successful the finished piece.
Ironically, the more an artist concentrates on a “message” or “statement,” the less pleasing the finished project, because too much of the artist and his opinions and beliefs and prejudices, as opposed to the essence of what he is painting or sculpting, comes through. In another twist of irony, when the artist successfully focuses on the subject, the artist, in his own essence, successfully emerges as well. His message makes it, almost in spite of himself.
So it is with the art inside of us. When we focus on others — the people in our lives, both good and bad, with their problems and dreams and joys and sorrow — we create brushstrokes and color in our own souls that make us into better people, happier people, more content, at peace, and stable.
And yet, when we pursue happiness as our primary goal, we are like the artist who propounds his message, his thoughts, his opinions and shoves them into the painting or sculpture — the more we actively seek to be happy, the less so that we are. The more we seek the happiness of others, the more we find it in ourselves.
In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, the main character, Alice, finds that, in order to get where she really wants to go, she has to head in the opposite direction, because when she beelines toward her objective, she constantly finds herself back where she started.
We live in a Looking Glass world, a beautiful place with terrible imperfections, a reflection of a better place not marred by those imperfections. Like Alice, in order to get where we want to go, we must sometimes do the opposite of what makes sense, because much of what makes sense to us is based upon on desire to take care of ourselves, our needs, our wants, our desires.
These can be met, but only if, like the artist, we focus outside ourselves and on the subjects in our lives.