The Art of Life and Love

art life love meaning

The Art Conundrum

Art has confounded critics and freshmen philosophy students for millennia. What is and isn't art? What makes something art? Why do we enjoy art?

Ultimately, art is something created because it is beautiful on some level (not necessarily on a sensory level). It cannot be appreciated for any other reason that its own appreciation. It has no purpose besides itself.

And yet, we cherish great art, paying massive sums of money for it and preserving it in museums for posterity.

Art is, in many ways, the very essence of human culture.

But it is, by its nature, useless. A beautiful handmade cup serves just as well as a factory-produced one. A painting is mere decor, music doesn't even last and a story is nothing but idea.

Now, I know that there are exceptions and caveats. A beautiful airplane is such because its form is perfectly aligned with its function, but the details that make it art are largely extraneous. The attention-to-detail evident in its fine curves, its perfect machining, that is a different kind of beauty that expresses appreciation for its own sake.

Furthermore, art's meaning is given to it by its viewers. Everyone who reads a great book gets a different meaning out of it, and even each time they read it.

Another thing we experience that shares all these qualities--no inherent meaning, appreciated for its own sake--is life itself.

Living Art

Life has no inherent meaning, except that of its own existence and appreciating that. It is, as Alan Watts described, a song, meant for dancing, not rushing to the end. It's not a task to complete.

Nature knows this. Nature arranges itself in art, from the tiniest cellular structures to the grandest super-organisms, all the way up to galaxies and cosmic mega-structures.

Actually, nature's artistic arrangement is simply the extension of it being art.

The skeptics will argue that we only see those things as beautiful because they are familiar, or we arose out of them, or they appeal to some biological survival mechanism. The fact that we experience that is the whole point; the universe has developed to appreciate itself, for its own sake. That's an even higher level of artistic expression.

We create art in the ways we move, interact, and live. Even trees tell stories. Anyone who fails to understand this has never truly been touched by nature (perhaps because they are expecting nature to perform some service for them).

High Art

And the greatest art of all is the art of love, the genuine compassion that arises when the being understands everything is connected and recognizes its unity with the rest of existence.

Love is both the appreciation of beauty and the expression of it. Truest love appreciates the entirety of a thing, not just the way it looks, but the way it is. Loving a person is like that; you love the way they are, totally and without exception.

It's hard, and can take a lifetime to master, but all great art is.

So, to say life is meaningless (even meaningless in its meaninglessness) is true, but only in the narrowest understanding of meaning.

Life is meaningless in the same way art is meaningless, which is to say, if you're even bothering with meaning like that, you're missing the point entirely. Enjoy it. Love it. Get totally lost and carried away in the sheer majesty of its grand beauty, and carried to tears by its tragic beauty, and frustrated to the point of rage by its petty beauty.

And make sure to dance.

Photo credit: Vinosh Chandar on Flickr