What if the highest art expression was the life we are living? What if it’s not what we do or create – but just our existence that has the most profound influence and artistic value?
This idea comes from listening to an interview on Youtube (here is the controversial thing: the interview is of an extraterrestrial being who is channeled by a human. If you are interested, search for Bashar and Alan Steinfeld. I know, that sounds weird, but my interest is not whether it is an alien speaking or not, but the points that are made. And there are a lot of good points there). I was struck by these words: “Just by your existence you already have all the impact you will ever have. Nothing you do in life will ever create or generate more impact that you already have. The things that you do, your creativity don’t have more impact – they reveal the impact you’ re already having”.
Since I was a kid I was impressed by the great minds and artists. Being born in the Soviet middle class family and growing up in the industrial city with a strong proletariat mentality, I was attracted to fine arts and great names of humanity, willing to learn about philosophy, classical music and the history of arts. I grew up believing that you have to do something great in life, if you want to leave legacy. Write a book, start a school, create a movement. Now these ideas mixed with the modern concept of success. I don’t like the image of a poor suffering artist, which gains recognition after his death. My idea of the great life got the influence of the modern culture which measures success by recognition, popularity and money. Write a bestseller, being talked about, become an influencer.
So this quote goes against what I used to believe – and still I find it refreshing and liberating. It takes away the pressure of doing something. Which hopefully must be great, by the way. It opens up for freedom of doing something for joy. Because doing this thing is more fun to you than not doing it. It is more about playing with the world, than working hard on it. So it got me thinking: how would it influence us living the life, if we believed that just our existence is enough? What would have changed?
What if our life itself can be viewed as an art form? Where it is not the book you write, or the painting you do, but your way of living the life that is celebrated. How would we go about creating this kind of art?
I also like the modern idea of “life by design”. Every girl wants a designer bag, and if you cannot afford designer furniture for your home, you go and buy a designer lamp at least. And my wish is for “life by design”. I still vaguely imagine what it means, but one thing I know, that the design is going to be mine 🙂
In Norwegian there is this expression “A4”as an adjective, describing something typical and standard. I grew up in culture that has the A4-design of life. In your twenties you study, find a job and a husband/wife, when you are 30 you are married and have two kids, when you are 40 you are probably divorced or living unhappily with a drinking husband (still safe in the normality of A4 standard), and after 50 you take care of your grandkids and your own life is almost over. I never felt comfortable in these structures, and my inspiration was the stories of people taking up ballet in their thirties, exploring a new career in their forties and travelling the world in their fifties. It seems unreal even to me, but these A4-structures still exist in smaller cities and towns of Ukraine, and surely, other ex-Soviet countries. And I am sure that they exist also in other places, though not as rigid as the ones I know.
I believe, that the change starts when we can imagine other possibilities. As I think more of how I can live a life by design, there are more and more stories of people walking out of corporate careers, of freelancers, of solo entrepreneurs. I find this diversity great as it opens my mind to new ways of thinking of how life can be lived.
In my twenties I heard a story about a French woman who turned 100 and was interviewed on her secrets of long life. I still remember what she said: “I have no secrets. I smoke every day, I drink wine, I love pastry – and the only wrinkle I have is the one I am sitting on” (funny enough, last year I saw an article about that woman, she is still doing interviews with the same cheeky attitude). I don’t mean to advocate for the habits of smoking and pastry eating (I am too serious about eating my avocados and doing my yoga :)), what I like here is that example of life that inspired me. The life as it is, no books, movies or epic installations.
This is why my ambition now is to study the art of life. Still not sure how to define it, but eager to explore it. That’s what my project will be: collecting data about my interest. Playing a researcher.I want to wrap it up by the quote that has become my favorite (in my translation from Norwegian ;)):
“The people who really do good to others, don’t try to be useful, they try to live an interesting life. They almost never give advice but serve as an example”. – Paulo Coelho “Manuscript found in Accra”.
Help me with my research – share your ideas in the comments or on your blog! What is the art of life for you? How would you define it?