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Purpose and Beauty

February 13th, 2016
Instagram | @michael_divine

“Framing the Essence”

On Creating a Beautiful World
As is my tendency, I have been jumping from subject to subject a bit: dancing between cultures and brain research and various other topics. It’s easy to have a colonially nostalgic view of cultures who ‘value craft more highly’ as I claimed, seemingly finding more purpose in their livelihoods than we do in our own. We can look elsewhere imagining a life that can be simpler and quainter, etc. but perhaps there is something to it that can be applied to our own lives.

The artists of the Arts & Crafts Movement of the early 1900s – an art movement in direct response to the onslaught of machine-made assembly line production that the industrial revolution brought with it – sought to imbue all things that they created with a sense of beauty and purpose – the house, the silverware, the windows, etc. These aesthetics were built on a belief that the external was a mirror of the internal, that there is happiness and joy in doing, and that being surrounded by beauty supports growth and understanding and that helps to make us better people. In the end, we are going to build homes. We are going to use silverware. We are going to do all of these things so why not make it something beautiful and see oneself not as a cog in the machine but as a purveyor of beauty?

If we did live in a culture where beauty and purpose were wrapped up together – the Art of Living if you will – and were supported to a greater extent and each person was supported in a creative framework that facilitated a joy in their art of living – how would we act differently? Would there be less litter? Would our signs and store facades relate to us differently? Would our color and design schemes engender feelings of fulfillment instead of lack and need? How, even, is the home of someone who feels right with the world vs. someone who feels at odds with it? Cleaner? Neater? More suited towards warmth and health and openness? Would we deal with homelessness differently? Would we deal with drug addiction differently? Would we find more compassion for each other?

In our own turning away from beauty, we might say: well, I never went so far as to be doing PCP in a back-alley in the City… because, in our mind, that’s really ugly. However, there’s plenty of things people do that are in the realm of ‘pretty ugly’ or ‘not very beautiful’ or ‘probably a bad decision’ and they shy away from that which is beautiful and nourishing and supportive of their own growth and that of others.

This has happened to all of us at one time or another: we are habitual machines with desires and responses. Some of us though: we may turn away from our goals and dreams but we eventually turn back due in no small part to the fact that our deeper sense of purpose in the world is wrapped up with creating beauty. For me, it is because painting. I could never forget that beautiful line, tone, arc, chord. I come back to it over and over because I find purpose the act of creating that which I find to be beautiful.

In the vision statement of my book and my website, I state that one of my missions as an artist is to create beauty in the world. It is my hope that this inspires others to also use their own gifts to do the same. This is my general goal in making a painting: to bring that painting to a place which I consider to be the absolute most beautiful thing I can imagine for that particular piece in a way that is a reflection of my own process. Just as a flower blooms into the best bloom it can be because that is all it knows to do, or the tree, or the thunderstorm: they simply do this and exist and, in doing so, are spectacular. In doing this – this creating beauty, this dance – I create a sensation in myself that is unparalleled elsewhere because my sense of purpose, my learning (all that it’s taken me to get there), my love of creating the beautiful, and my response to beauty itself are all wrapped up together in one singular mission.

This ‘creating beauty’ isn’t limited to myself being a painter. My wife, for instance, finds great beauty in the art of philosophy and teaching and the beauty of logic. Another friend who is a lawyer sees law as this beautiful and intricate framework of checks and balances. We can observe the computer programmer and their love of elegant coding. These people and many others have a deep-seated sense of purpose within themselves as it relates to their work in the world. More often than not, myself included, we had to nurture it in ourselves and strike out on our own explorations because we don’t live in a world that pushes us towards a deeper understanding of who we are and our purpose here. We live in a world that tries its hardest to make us neat little cogs in the machine that toil away for a little space to satisfy our reward/response mechanisms.

So maybe it all comes down to: seek out the beautiful in life. If we keep the question in mind – “is this the most beautiful choice?” – then chances are, we will make that choice that leads to greater beauty. More often than not, the most beautiful choice is the healthiest and most meaningful choice as well.

An important step towards creating a healthier world for ourselves and those around us is the recalibration of our sense of purpose and how it relates to beauty and how we see ourselves as an intrinsic part of that. The most beautiful world is not the one in which we have the most money or we all worship the same religion or all have the same clothes. That world invariably leaves others hungry and lacking. It inevitably is one person forcing a world view upon another. There is no beauty in that. There is no love, no compassion.

The healthiest and happiest world is a place where all people can thrive, where we can breathe freely, where we can engage in our arts and feel rewarded for that. It is the world where we feel the most comfort, the most love, the most joy. It fosters the least amount of anxiety and propensity towards addiction and disease. I fully admit that we have built one hell of a machine that does not do this and it seems at times that, try as we might to dismantle it, it just gets bigger, more cumbersome, and more at odds with any sense of beauty or purpose.

On the other hand, there are those of us who use our path – our work in this world – to do our best to move in a way that steers it towards the shared vision of a more beautiful world. In doing so, we often find that we attract others along the way with similar purpose. The unification of our various missions and engaging in our work with that vision – the ships all directed towards a like goal – summarily lifts ourselves and each other and everyone else.

Here is to moving towards that more beautiful world.

*****

Footnotes

[1] I would also like to add that, if you are a brain surgeon, I would be happy to hear from you, be corrected on anything I got wrong, or hear about anything I may have gotten right. This is a dialogue and I am but one person walking through the world making connections as I can.

[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-wise/201209/why-were-all-addicted-texts-twitter-and-google

[3] http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/07/
what_is_dopamine_love_lust_sex_addiction_gambling_motivation_reward.html

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nucleus_accumbens

[5] http://www2.derby.ac.uk/ostrich/intro_to_bio_psych/addiction/page_11.htm

[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3180592/

[7] http://www.jneurosci.org/content/17/21/8491.short

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23664648

[9] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0021852

[10] This tells the story of the Rat Park research as a rather entertaining but true comic: http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comics_en/rat-park/

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