Existential Fulfillment


~a guest post by Helen at Naiveety~

I believe in the importance of art. I believe that it is fundamental for growth, that it is an integral part of living a life filled with enrichment and beauty. Art is versatile, and art is expansive.

I personally appreciate the culture of an art museum. I can wander around the halls, staring at famous paintings and sculptures. I can stand in front of the famous pieces of Dali, Miro, Monet, and wonder what brilliance went through their minds for them to create something so beautiful. I can watch performance art pieces and contemplate, and I can try and find meaning in even the most obscure contemporary artwork. However, I know that only certain people genuinely enjoy the atmosphere of such an environment. There is a natural aesthetic, but no movement of the soul. For some, art creeps into the deepest wounds of the heart; it sulks in the nooks and crannies of your fingertips and sits quietly off the edge of your collarbones. For many others, framed landscapes and boxed ceramics hold no significance; there is no transcendence of mind, no tidal wave of emotion.

But art is everywhere. Art exists in every medium, in every century, in every home. There is art in the soundtrack to your favorite movie. The dramatic buildup of an action scene balances perfectly with the poignant instrumentals of heartbreak and woe. There is art in between the spilled ink of your favorite author, where you see how the sorrows and joys of their own lives blend and blur with the characters of a made-up world. There is art in the laughter of your loved ones, art in the complexity of the brain, art in space. To me, the best art is organic. There is a wondrous symphony in every blossoming flower and a harmonious solo performance in every leaf. The color of the plants wilt and transform the same way ballerinas dance across a stage; the rain hits the pavement the same way the rhythm of drums sync with your heartbeat. The sunshine shyly peaking through the tree branches on a sunny Sunday morning feels like the warmth of applause after a recital; the feeling of running your fingers through a creek feels like the initial stroke of paint on canvas. For centuries long, the world has been naturally churning out masterpieces worthy of praise and admiration, and every day, I become more and more convinced that magic exists.

Many people disregard art; the laser-focused generation of preplanned success has gradually declared art irrelevant and non-vital. I respectfully disagree. The education system values a STEM-oriented curriculum; students have all adopted the universal ideology that any career in the hard sciences and mathematics department lead to ensured job opportunities and a life of financial security. On the opposite side of an overly dichotomous spectrum, humanities and art are seen as pathways to unemployment and cardboard boxes. Sad to say, schools are beginning to cut funding on the Fine Arts department and beginning to funnel the money into stronger academic programs and athletics. Art is shrinking, evaporating into the sky, wisped away by the breezes of standardized tests and misconceptions. But, for one, the ill-advised attempt to remove ‘art’ from the focus of students will not work because art is a survivor; it will adapt to its surroundings as a way to thrive. It is sneaky, cunning, and the most clever person in the room. It will become a master of disguise, but slowly fall in love with its new identity. Art is not exclusive to history, to music, to pencil sketches and still life, for it embarks into the overwhelmingly unknown world of science. You don’t have to be a romantic to find beauty in art. There is no prerequisite to be utterly in love with the universe; one does not have to look at the world through rose-colored glasses, for there is art in science and math, because the formulas and equations used to prove a hypothesis and validate a theory flow through the mind like Shakespeare; the sketches and schematics piled up are drafts of the final product. The ability to venture into the unknown and create something out of nothing remains awe-inspiring. But more importantly, such an ability leads one to become an artist. In my personal opinion, being a scientist, a mathematician, an engineer of any sort, doubles as artistry; whether you are building the newest innovative gadget or researching the latest scientific discovery, there is art in your actions. All you have to do is follow your passions. Every stroke of knowledge, every new thought, every philosophical musing, every doubt becomes a form of art, and to truly get rid of that within a generation is impossible. Secondly, art is a nutrient; it is necessary for growth and for quality of life. Fostering an appreciation for art, be it the limitless world of theoretical physics or the melancholic poeticism of Sylvia Plath, paves a lane of existential fulfillment.

Quite often, I have heard the phrase, “There are two types of people in this world.” There are a multitude of ways to categorize, generalize, and identify the general masses; through one lens, you see two types of people: those that appreciate art, in whatever medium, and those that don’t. I believe there is a significant difference in happiness. Quantifying happiness, success, or whatever broadly vague term of self-actualization, is difficult. There are various definitions for each phenomenon, but in the grand scheme of things, it is all individual, all unique. For each person, there is a different perspective and point of view. For some, money is the most important aspect of happiness; for others, love is almighty. Debates have sparked over just which is right, but despite whichever factor you hold wholly or majorly responsible for happiness, art should be a part of the picture. While I am young, and while I have been limited to my hometown suburbia, I have met enough people to see a difference. The absolute brilliant people that see art in the ordinary, that see art in the world and their passions, those people have color in their eyes. Their veins are constantly pumping with adrenaline, geared towards expanding their horizons and learning everything about anything. Their grip is a little tighter when you hold their hand; their hugs are a little longer when you reach in for a friendly embrace. Their tears are heavy with wonder, and their smiles are like little fireflies constantly twinkling. Their minds expand, and they learn how to question things. Those people who neglect the importance of art fall a little flat, as if they’ve got little leaks everywhere. They are the smudged lead marks on the margin of the paper, the broken umbrella left on the side of the road. Their greetings and their farewells are bland, and their actions are rote and mechanical; there is no spontaneity, no impulsiveness, no surprises.  However, art grows at an exponential rate. It radiates through the nets of boredom and  monotony. It embodies the vigor of a saltwater wave and the gentle shine of the morning sunrise. Art is always eager to enter into a home, and once it does, it becomes a permanent member of the household.

Art is about perspective. It’s about interpretation and cultivates a life of open-mindedness. It rejects the notion of black-and-white and splatters a kaleidoscope of possibilities into your life. Art is about individuality. It’s about delving into the deepest parts of yourself and floating amidst the chaos. It rejects the notion of conformity and values self-love. Art is about growth. It’s about kindred spirits and intimate connections built on a foundation of curiosities and intellectual stimulation. It rejects the suppression of expression.

You don’t have to praise the creation of art museums, and you don’t have to regularly attend the local symphony, but you should intermix art into your life. Alter your mind if you do not see art all around you; take the ordinary parts of your day and dip them into the puddles of beauty. Weave the brilliance of art into your daily norms, and take some time to understand what you are doing. I promise there will be change. And while change is scary and daunting, it is just as necessary. Take some time and acknowledge your surroundings; the birds that wake you up in the morning are living, breathing things, and that is beautiful. They have their own lives, their own families, their own struggles. The stars that you ignore every night burn far away, raging with such powerful passion, born from the collapse of a gaseous nebula. They’re beautiful, and all because they exist. The wind that tangles your hair and kisses your neck is the ever-changing tempo for the natural world; they sway the tree branches in front of your house from ballroom dancing to waltzes to tangos.

Find art in everything. Find new art in old art. The world is in a perpetual state of change, a perpetual state of growth. You are a part of this world, which very well makes you art. Appreciate art, and appreciate yourself.

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