“The high mission of any art is, by its illusions, to foreshadow a higher universe reality, to crystallize the emotions of time into the thought of eternity.”
In our intensely pragmatic and profit oriented culture, we may appreciate the arts, but we often undervalue just how powerful, poignant and inspiring enlightened art can be. I would like to explore how provocative conscious art can truly be, to expand our appreciation for what art can do and to inspire us to develop the consciousness that the true artist brings to life.
What enlightened art can do:
Art reaches in and beyond our normal consciousness and brings forth an awareness of the most fundamental energies of life. It touches something deep within us– a quality, a presence. It makes the true and essential dimensions of life reachable and palpable. It stirs something, gets something moving, evokes a feeling. It enables us to be with our emotions in a way that is healthy, nurturing, and invigorating.
Art reminds us of qualities of being that go unnoticed and unappreciated in the normal affairs of our lives. It reminds us that the infinite and complex activities and moments of our lives we normally pass by with the judgment, “Oh, it’s just that again” are actually filled with the poignant and the miraculous.
If we stop long enough to see and really engage whatever is before us, the absolute uniqueness of every encounter is revealed. And within that revelation is the recognition that every single piece of existence, no matter how mundane and insignificant to the casual observer is richly endowed with a plethora of delightful and delectable attributes and originality. All of life, if properly beheld is a novelty. The pain, the joy, confusion, despair, hope, fear– even passivity, when rendered in ar, become imbued with meaning. Everything, everybody, everyone is an original creation. We are surrounded by and immersed in….artistry.
Art points the way to our Spirit. It reveals the wholeness of life. It reflects our infinite capacity to create, to experience transcendence–to step aside the parade of sameness and predictability and tap into mystery and awe. Art helps us recognize and appreciate the very core of what life is about–movement, dance, mixing, mating, longing and touching, drama, rhythm, texture and amazement. And it especially helps us to recognize and often adore the essence in one another.
Art allows us to affirm our connectedness. Art embodies connectedness. Through the artist’s ability to fondle time and space, we see how one thing gracefully moves into another and becomes of new thing. It shows us that everything is composed of the same stuff brought into distinction by the skill and sensitivity of the artist.
To the degree that we are all responding to a work of art and that something is touched within us by that art, we enter into a commonness of identity–a shared vision. For a moment the pain of our differences is dissolved and we can stand together with a suspended breath and utter a unified “Ah”.
Art can be relaxing, refreshing, releasing, ennobling, inspiring, confrontive, informing and even healing. It is healing because it embodies wholeness. It takes things that don’t seem to go together at first look and puts them together. If healing is the process of becoming whole, then art shows us the way to achieve that wholeness. The more we can adapt the process of creation to the healing arts, the more whole and harmonious we will become.
Art makes accessible the evanescent qualities of Spirit. In an instantaneous perception we know on a deep level what love is… or … trust … or intimacy … or grandeur, nobility, adorableness or truth. The artist imitates God by bringing something out of nothing. And great art strikes a resonance with the very presence of Spirit in the center of our being.
Art can bring us home. It is an invitation to abide in our soul which gets so little attention in this materially dominated culture. Art connects our mind and hearts. It soothes us, massages us, resolves conflicts. It permits us to step away from the demands and confusion of living to be invigorated by the touching simplicity of color, sound, a sinewy shape, a deep crevice, a gesture, an attitude. Suddenly, that which may have seemed abhorrent to us in our affairs in the world becomes understandable or even appealing through art.
Art helps us forgive. That which we cannot tolerate in ourselves or others in normal perception is transformed by art, through the artist’s penetrating insight, into a window to deeper knowing, a doorway to greater tolerance and compassion.
Art is one of the great unifiers. In a society, which tears itself apart because of fear of diversity, art comes in and reveals the substance beyond the appearance, the surging soul behind the ugly mask–projected onto our faces by prejudice and ignorance. Art strips that mask away and invites us to enter into the truth of being, and once within, to discover that we all live there together. Art conjures up a harmony that allows us for a moment, in spite of our divisiveness, to delight in a shared experience, a shared wonder.
Art brings us into the present. As we most often find ourselves on the past/future continuum of life vying for some sort of control or understanding, it is refreshing to be riveted to the moment. Art arrests us and says, “Stop, look, feel, listen. Get off the treadmill of survival and competition and consider something remarkable, something profound, something never, never again…not like this.”
Art unifies past, present and future. Ironically art, by focusing on one single highlighted moment, can tell a story revealing past causes and future consequences. In the naked instant, the grand drama of one individual life can be revealed and we are amazed to see how much that life is as like and as wondrous as our own.
Consider the poignancy hidden in the shadows of life, beyond the blinders of self deception and mistaken identity. Look into the spaces between expectations and note with trepidation, “It isn’t what I thought it to be after all. There is possibility. There is promise.”
Art is a promise that we can have what we want if we are willing to create it, if we are willing to liberate it, if we are willing to push aside our doubts and distrust and grab a hold of time and space and create them anew.
The artist learns the skill of manipulating the essential multi-media of creation–rhythm, balance, color, shape, texture, words, tones, lines, mass, shadows, thoughts and feelings and builds a new life out of these primary variables. The artist reminds us that we, too, have access to these basic ingredients. At any moment, we can tap into them, play with them, recombine and renegotiate them and bring forth a masterpiece. The artist combines purely abstract elements into something real and tangible, something that is simultaneously familiar and awesome.
These fundamental variables exist within each of us and are always available to us. We can, through the courage of creativity, gain access to them at any time (for they are always within the reach of our imagination) reshuffle them and bring forth a new creation, a new work of art, a new life form–ourselves expressed on the canvas of existence as we draw from the palette of multi-colored opportunity.
The artist reminds us how we are free. Indeed, this is probably the greatest gift art gives us. When we are prone to bemoan our limitations, our enemies, our powerlessness and be damned by our frustrations, the artist can rekindle the spark of freedom–the freedom that comes when the finality of our beliefs confronts the unlimited imagination of the believer. For a moment we are transported to far away places or times. The limitations of the self are forgotten and with it, all the clutter that boggles our consciousness and constrains our expression.
The artist ignites the potential for exuberance by showing us that we, like “the artist” can access those very same raw materials of art, find the essence of the subject of our art, grasp the features we find there and reshape them into something or perhaps a someone the universe has never beheld before–an original.
So much of life is a reaction and a defense. The artist engages us and makes it possible to expand our sense of who we are and see beyond the walls we have placed between ourselves and our freedom, between ourselves and one another, between ourselves and the pounding, rhythmic power of life. The artist bequeaths us a love for, in and throughout all creation.
So much of the suffering in the world comes from our shared belief that we are limited, that there is only so much to go around, that we must take, gain, hoard and defend. Yet, waiting within the creative imagination of each person is a cornucopia of possibilities eager to burst forth and come onto the stage of existence. Art reawakens in us the notion that life is that proverbial empty canvas waiting for us to turn away from the world of denial and fear and enter the gigantic sweep of unending thought. It informs us that we can transform the most mundane and insignificant of events into breathtaking moments, opportunities for beholding the sublime.
Art teaches us that it is often in the simplest and most basic of human gestures…a child’s smile, two lovers entwined, a cat licking himself, an Indian emerging out of the earth, the naked human form…that our nobility is made apparent. Literally, any and all things can be seen as priceless and precious when revealed through the deft hand and uninhibited mind of a creative being.
We should be inspired by art to cease our moaning and wailing, our griping and complaining. It is only as we look out at and accept what we see as an end, as finite and finished that we feel limited. We need only look within to be reborn, to see that our potential is truly boundless.
The artist lives within us all. How else could we respond to the work of art? How else could those marvelous qualities exposed by the artist touch us? They must exist within us, though often dormant and dying through atrophy and neglect. Each of us at any given moment has the power to awaken and affirm those fundamental attributes in one another–those qualities confirmed so dramatically by the rainbow, the mountain top, the blade of grass, falling leaf, baby’s smile or tearful eye. Each of us has the capacity to project and receive the mystical hidden from view by predictability, to unleash the forces of invention.
Art has a sense of magic. Something appears out of nowhere that has character, depth, meaning, and purpose. And so are we, beings who have appeared out of nowhere, that have character, depth, meaning, and purpose. But is it a nowhere from whence we have come or is it from the eternal birth of creative imagination? Is it nowhere, or is it from the infinite repository of creative potential? Is it a nowhere or is it the continual somewhere that we may go to be revived, re-enlivened, as we choose to participate in the creative process.
The artist pulls down the veil of ignorance that separates us the from the Master Creator who lives within us and animates the universe. The artist ultimately reveals to us that we are the handiwork of that creator. We are the result of Someone’s unbelievable imagination. And we are ultimately the greatest work of art in that we have been given the power of life and the power to beget life. We are the art creating more art.
As we face ourselves honestly, and openly, like standing between two mirrors, we too, can recognize that we, like the Creator, extend out to forever.
But what does the artist know that allows this “magic” to happen? We all possess the intrinsic capability. We may have only forgotten. Let us remember. Let our admiration of the work of art we admire remind us to express this same open ended ability to give creative expression to what we feel. Let us choose to liberate our core passion, our inmost truth, our deepest self. What does the artist know about creating that we can use to be equally creative? What does the artist do?
The artist embraces his subject without judgment. She puts up no barriers between herself and the focus of her creative intent. There is no “I wish it would be different than it is.” There is total acceptance of the subject–whether it be a model or still life for a painting, story or character for a novel, rhythm or image for a poem, turn and leap for a ballet or the notes and chords of a symphony. The artist beholds the subject of the art without prejudice, without fear. The artist wraps his consciousness around the subject and surrenders to the subject’s unique form, shape and attitude. The artist allows himself to be impressed by the subject.
The artist engages that subject and interpenetrates with it. What exists within the essence of the subject is allowed to mix with what exists within the essence of the artist and out of this intermingling, this marriage, this love making, the artist gives forth the expression of their combined nature. And voila! Existence. Something emerges that is the expression of the integration of the subject and the artist. Behold life has come forth. “Life has come out of me.” saith the artist.
And we know it is good life if the beholder of the art feels more alive, more fully him or her self.
So what has happened to enable this magic of life to occur? The artist has made a space inside himself for the subject to enter. He has completely received the subject. And isn’t this the first step of love? To receive the beloved. The subject is the beloved. And once received the beloved enters into and transforms the artist. The artist/lover is never the same.
This brings us to the fundamental reason why so many of us resist the process of creation. You cannot enter into that process without being transformed yourself. You cannot escape the consequences of that process of intermingling, of love making and your responsibility for what you have created. Neither you nor the subject will ever be the same. Like parents you are permanently at one in the child, in the offspring of your creative exchange.
Many of us fear the responsibility. We don’t feel confident to handle it. We resist being changed and transformed. We want to hold onto ourselves exactly the way we have made ourselves to be. The unknown frightens us. To be changed frightens us. That is why there are so few who choose the path of creation, so few true artists. It is a dangerous path. It will leave the traveler a different person at the end of the road. But what adventure, what joy, what delight and surprise is encountered along the way. What satisfaction and fulfillment?!
But what will encourage us to tread that path, to step out into the embrace, to be willing to change and be changed? It is the realization that wherever we step, the Creator is there to uphold our existence. God, “the ground of being,” will continually be there to support our every move, to validate our every choice…if it is made in faith, if it is made in love, if it really accesses and comes from our essence–our soul. If it is an honest choice, if it is, like any great work of art, a balanced choice, a choice for harmony.
If we make a choice for wholeness and freedom, for movement, the Creator himself gives spring to our step and propels us into the next magical creative opportunity. And the more we step out and leap forward, the more our faith is reinforced, the more we can trust the process.
Just as at the beginning the artist takes little steps, makes small gestures, we need only make little creations. But create we must, for the universe is one of constant change and creation. Each of us has been endowed with the gifts of the artist–the ability to transform our world and ourselves. By engaging the essence within us, within each other and within our world, by embracing the different ways essence expresses itself, by mixing up the whole thing through the powerful integrating force of inner vision, we bring forth a new creation. This new being can then inspire all those who behold it to draw forth a new creation from within themselves. These new phenomena add to the richness and splendor of the divine tapestry as it works its way out in the threads and patterns of the finite universe.
The greatest artist who ever lived has revealed this path. He said, “I will make my life a work of art so that each of you may see that you have the same gift to make yourself a work of art. You can inspire others and awaken the realization of our inner resources in one another. Together, we will start a snowball of recognition and celebration. Then we will come to realize our shared capacity to create an artful world. We can live creation-filled lives that in chorus speak so eloquently the words, tones and breathtaking strokes, the exquisite language of art–balance, beauty, innocence, wonder, grandeur, joy, humility, simplicity, insight, harmony and dignity.