We have a tendency to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. We think that when we’re not doing anything, we’re wasting our time. But that’s not true. Our time is first of all for us to be. To be what? To be alive, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. And this is what the world needs the most. We all need to train ourselves in our way of being, and that is the ground for all action. Our quality of being determines our quality of doing.
- Thich Nhat Hanh, in “The Art of Living”.
“So this question is really important, because discovery and understanding come through self-knowledge, through observing the ways of the mind. What you say of your neighbour, how you talk, how you walk, how you look at the skies, at the birds, how you treat people, how you cut a branch — all these things are important, because they act like mirrors that show you as you are and, if you are alert, you discover everything anew from moment to moment.”
“…the general tacit assumption in thought is that it’s just telling you the way things are and that it’s not doing anything — that “you’ are inside there, deciding what to do with the information.
But you don’t decide what to do with the information.
Thought runs you.”
David Bohm, quantum physicist.
Human beings are suffering from something they can’t identify. It’s too close to home, maybe. Lodged right there in the heart and brain of everyone who has their eyes fixed on the horizon “over there” is the crucial locus of control. We Westerners belong to a culture that looks eternally outward. Looking inward is not done; it’s considered pointless, self obsessed, weak.
Introverts get short shrift in this ethos. What is the practical value of poetry? Why write, paint, concern oneself with ephemeral things like beauty?
Do we have to try to be human? Isn’t that conferred with birth? Does a rose have to try to be a rose? Does a polar bear have to try to be itself? The question is ridiculous.
Humans are different though. They can be diverted from their basic nature. They can become neurotic, twisted, repressed, out of touch with themselves. Some societies, like the Puritan one some of us belong to, encourage a tragic divorce from ourselves. This state of affairs would be unthinkable for an alligator or a prairie dog. For us, it’s a common, socially approved schizophrenia.
Becoming a fully evolved human requires using that quintessentially human trait — questioning — looking for oneself, refusing that which “insults your soul,” to quote a poet.
The problem with being run by thought is that our thoughts are second hand, unexamined, hand-me-down relics of the environment we were born into. We didn’t come to them ourselves. We are not so original. We are not so creative. We just absorbed our society, our culture. We let ourselves be molded by the given circumstance.
Is that intelligent? What do you think?
I think it’s better to be aware of how we function, to question if it’s what we want for ourselves, to ask ourselves how much we would respect this process in others. It all comes down to an ability to listen attentively to our own energies, our own voices and actions.
If we can do this we have a chance of being intelligently human, of being creative and of contributing to the world.
This is how I link art and the evolution of the human spirit. I see the arts as a tool of the human spirit. It dismantles the moribund while creating new meaning. It shows what’s coming into being that the world needs. It is giving birth to insight and vision.
Finding the capability in yourself to produce art is in fact creating a better world inhabited by a better human being. I can’t think of a more worthy project.
- Anima Fire is my publication