Art’s purpose is to sober and quiet the mind so that it is in accord with what happens.
A friend of mine from seminary, Laurie, sent me this quote a few days ago through email. Laurie had said that the quote reminded her of me. And when she sent it, I was in the midst of a huge emotional turmoil, which I don’t think she knew. Work was really stressful and hard and the nonprofit I help to run was really stressful and hard and it seemed like there was not much time for art, not much time for peace.
Now that I feel myself working out of that stressful and hard few weeks, I am really able to contemplate and comprehend the quote by John Cage for how it speaks to me. What I take away from the quote is that really and truly for me, the practice of doing art or design or crafts is helpful to help calm my spirit. Art helps me to slow down, to contemplate little details that make a big impact on the whole. And yet, when I am in the midst emotional turmoil, the last thing I want to do–create art–is perhaps the thing that will speak most to my spirit, help center me and give me the perspective I need to help find my way through difficult and stressful times.
It reminds me a bit about exercise. I love to play sports, but do not love so much to do calisthenics or aerobics or things on that order. Like sit-ups. I hate, hate, hate sit-ups. For one, I think they’re totally boring. I know they are good for me and all, but they really don’t keep my attention and they are not fun to do. Over the years I have noticed that various athletic instructors have told me to remember to keep breathing when I do sit-ups. And on the surface, that seems like such a dumb comment…until I realized that I do hold my breath when I do sit-ups. For whatever reason, my body is so negatively responsive to doing sit-ups that it sabotages itself from doing them properly. And I do notice that when I am consciously willing myself to breathe during those moments doing sit-ups, the sit-ups are remarkably easier and more pleasant.
I guess what I want to say is that art is an important, integral portion of living my life well. It is what helps me to breathe and to bring me some peace when life gets hard. I am currently trying to restructure my life such that I will have more opportunity to be mindful of art’s place in my days. As one example, I have signed up for a weekly watercolor painting class at a local community arts center. This is not as much to learn technique, although I assume that I will learn while in the class, but more-so to be really intentional at making space in my week to be doing the (art) work that I want to do.