When we talk about art our natural tendency is to think of physical works created by an ‘artist’. In fact the dictionary definition of ART is, ‘the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture.’
I’m okay with that description, it’s respectful enough of any kind of creative outlet and it’s short and to the point.
There is though the other kind of art that we often refer to which is more of an acquired skill of a specific thing, so we might say ‘he’s mastered the art of persuasion’ or ‘she’s mastered the art of baking perfect cupcakes’.
The beauty of using the word ‘art’ in both contexts is that it allows for the freedom, uniqueness and creativity of the ‘artist’. We understand that they have dedicated time and effort into honing and improving a skill, regardless of what it is, enough so for them to be considered a ‘master’ at it. Michelangelo himself said,
“If people knew how hard i worked to get mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”
If we talked about the ‘science’ of persuasion or the science of baking cakes though we would be talking about a system of scientific steps that if followed would produce specific results. With ‘science’ there is little room for creativity or expression, it is just a practical procedure and if anyone followed the same steps they would likely get similar results. Essentially then there can’t really be a science to being yourself, it would be too paradoxical. It reminds me of the scene in the Monty Python film The Life Of Brian where Brian, mistaken as the Messiah, addresses the crowd and urges them not to follow him. ‘We are all individuals’ he tells them. Silence falls across the crowd and then one man puts his hand up and says innocently ‘I’m not’.
The ‘art’ of anything though encourages absolute individual expression and that’s what makes it so much more interesting, and brings heart, soul and energy to any form of expression.
The art of being yourself is a lifelong process, a constantly evolving work in progress. We are the canvas, so to speak, and our life experiences are the paints or materials with which we create our masterpiece. We are all masterpieces, (nobody say ‘I’m not’ please), it’s just a shame that so few people actually realise this. Too many people don’t see the beauty and magic of what they really are because they are too busy being consumed by the momentum and chaos of the lives they lead. People tend to dress for ease and comfort, eat for convenience, drink or take drugs to easily unwind. Their time is limited, money even more so. They feel victims of their circumstances and situations, waiting for the next thing to set them back and knock them off course or perhaps the sheer luck of a windfall, lottery win or lucky break that can help them escape their ordinary lives.
Nihilistic as this vision of many people’s lives sounds, it’s sadly very true. Undoubtedly there is very little ‘art’ in living this kind of life. We discussed earlier though that art or mastery of a skill comes from honing and refining it through practice. This is where the art of living and the art of being yourself comes in. What if the purpose of our life is to create it and not wait for it to be delivered to us?
The legendary mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell expresses it as,
“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”
So our lives are made up of the meanings we give it. A challenging situation happens to you, do you respond with pity and despair ’why does this happen to me?’, or do you choose to think ‘okay, this is interesting, how can i learn from this?’ Both of these ARE choices, and your choice here will give your life different meaning and therefore a different life experience.
This is how you can start to create yourself piece by piece as a masterpiece, you learn to hone your decision making, make better choices, start to experience how those choices impact your life. You become an artist as you learn to master the art of yourself. No longer a victim of circumstance, instead using circumstances as just other colours in your palette. In this way anything, good or bad, that happens to us can be used and transformed into something ‘creative’ – especially if that creation is YOU. Living this way means there can be no mistakes, no accidents – everything is just part of ‘life’s great tapestry’ and every experience just adds depth and uniqueness to that work of art that is YOU.
Michelangelo’s most famous quote is still powerfully poignant, 500 years after he said it,
“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.”