Your Life is Your Masterpiece: Life as Art and Art as Life

a art1 “This is the only real problem of life, the only worthwhile preoccupation of man: what is one’s true talent, his secret gift, his authentic vocation? In what way is one truly unique, and how can he express this uniqueness, give it form, dedicate it to something beyond himself? How can the person take his private inner being, the great mystery that he feels at the heart of himself, his emotions, his yearnings and use them to live more distinctively, to enrich both himself and mankind with the peculiar quality of his talent?” ~ Ernest Becker

When it comes down to it, life may be nothing more than a grand illusion, a spectacular delusion. More than likely it is nothing more than a flash in the pan of a greater cosmos, a fleeting finitude wrecked against an unflinching infinity. At best, it might mean something in the sense that everything is connected to everything else. At worst, it might mean nothing that everything is connected to everything else. So be it. Either way, it is our responsibility to bring meaning to an otherwise meaningless universe. As Leibniz proclaimed, “Each singular substance expresses the whole universe in its own way.”

But here’s the thing: This is our grand illusion. This is our flash in the pan. This is our fleeting finitude. And what we do with it is what will make life either a courageous, artistic adventure or a fainthearted, banal inertia. We were created to be creative.

If we just shuffle sheepishly along the mundane people-mover moving everybody toward death, and merely go along with the status quo, life will likely just pass us by and become little more than a boring inertia. But if we are able to switch our disposition regarding life to an artistic approach, life can become our canvas, and we free ourselves to create a masterpiece all our own, a magnum opus that can make our lives more distinctive and enriching to both ourselves and to mankind. As David Whyte surmised, “To become human is to become visible while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.”

Life as art:

a art2 “Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Everything is connected to everything else. This is both the ultimate revelation and the ultimate platform. This is the primordial canvas. This is the source out of which we rise up with our limited faculties and awe-inspired imaginations. This is the golden elixir of creativity, the meta-vision, and we are the fountainhead.

It’s almost as if the interconnectedness of all things needs a release from its infinite bonds, and so it chooses us: finite creatures with bleeding hearts and gasping breaths. It needs a way to express itself other than itself. It needs a conduit to flow through, a mouthpiece to sing through, a sacred agent to act through. And if we have hearts to feel it, we’ll feel it. And if we have the ears to hear it, we’ll hear it.

But most of us do not hear the call. It goes in one ear and out the other, because we are not tuned in. We are not tapped into the frequency of our creativity. We’re stuck in the cogs and clocks of the daily grind. We’re caught up in psychosocial doldrums. Our imaginations are worthless organs inside us, dried up and atrophied from ill-use. Our art, which once colorfully burst through us with great joy in our youth, is now nothing more than the scribbled-out memory of our “immaturity.”

And yet we find ourselves longing for that creative freedom once again. We desperately try to dig our once vigorous and imaginative inner child out from under the depths of our suppression. We dig. Depressed and dejected, we dig. But as Picasso discerned, “It takes a long time to become young again.” Indeed.

Becoming young again is both very easy and very difficult. Instead of desperately digging through the depression and suppression searching for our inner child, we need only mediate on and transform the darkness into art: the depressions into poetic impressions, the suppression into inventive intonations. “The obstacle is the path,” as the Zen proverb goes. So it goes with the layer upon layer of cultural and societal suppressing of our inner child. Turn the suppression into art, the ache into music, the pain into poetry, the time lost into time transcended.

Life as art is a spiraling out of too-tight, overly-serious control in order to regain more leveraged and flexible control – a “control” that knows when to let go. As Jeffrey Tucker explained, “The human race thrives only because of the lack of control, not because of it. I’m saying that we need ever more absence of control to make the world a more beautiful place. It is a paradox that we must forever explain.” a art3

Art as Life:

“Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence.” ~ Osho

You want your life to be a masterpiece? You want to be the flexible and intuitive artist of your life using fate as your primordial paint? Then learn how to let go. Let go of belief. Let go of certainty. Let go of safety. Let go of comfort. Let go of expectations. And yes, let go even of the “need” to let go. As Zen master Baso cryptically stated, “If I see you have a staff, I will give it to you. If I see you have no staff, I will take it away from you.”

Clear as mud? Good! Now use that mud to create art. Vital art. Art that strips the soul bare of the mind and body. Art that tricks the universe into divulging its secrets. Use that mud to design spell-binding instruments that dare to capture the voice of God. Use that mud to create mystical masks that cause others to see magic; that causes the wearer of such masks to see with “over-eyes,” crown chakras spinning like a mighty vortex above them as they become one with the cosmos.

Splatter the mud all over your boring canvas and then make something only you can make, something only your specific soul-signature can craft –a soul-craft. Draw it out. Provoke it if need be. Laugh at it, and then make it your own with your soul’s fingerprint blazing on it like a mystical rune for future generations to marvel over.  As Bruce Lee intuited, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.”

a art4 What’s that! You created something uniquely your own, as a gift to share with others? Great! Now, let it go. Shake it off. Dust off the magic pixie dust. Shed the skin within which you created that magical art. Because art as life and life as art isn’t only about that moment that just passed. It’s not only about that piece of art you just created.

It’s about this moment that will pass you by if you don’t let go of the past and pay attention to the present. It’s about flow. It’s about hacking God (infinity) despite mortality (finitude). It’s about the overall art of making more and more art, despite all art that came before it. It’s about the Meta-art of your life as a potential masterpiece.

Keep creating. Keep letting go. Don’t worry about forgetting. You won’t. Your muscle memory will kick in and push you into your next flow state. Keep going. Keep creating. Keep letting go. Breathe it in (art/life). Breathe it out (life/art). Make rapturous love to the universe like only you can.

Turn it all into an ecstatic dance that makes all the gods of mankind’s creation blush. Then force them to join in, while creating ever-more and ever-greater gods with which we can all use to humble and encourage ourselves further and further into the Great Mystery that’s swallowing us whole. As the Japanese Proverb states, “We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.”

Image source:

Picasso quote
The child who survived
Nietzsche quote
Let go

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  • Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.

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