The Forgotten Art
Existence is an art form. An art form we all participate in, some more consciously than others. The story our lives tell express who we are. To paraphrase from Corinthians in the Bible, to see what a man believes look at what he does, not what he says. History is important because it reveals the nature of humanity. What part do we each play in the unfolding melodrama? All of us are here upon the stage to live and die, to recite filthy poetry, or stand mute like a slave, chained with fear; stage-fright. Living artistically means being anything, anytime. It means standing out as an individual, unfettered. And it only requires one second.
Humans paint, draw, dance, act, and sing their lives across the few years they have. Painting, acting, drawing, photography, music, dance, etc.; these are accepted modes of self expression. Humans occupy themselves with art to make life enjoyable. Each person an individual thread winding through an intricate needlepoint of human history, dipping in and out of view. Sociologically speaking the general masses create the texture, and background, setting a stage for the display of the excepted individuals. Pack leaders, and artisans are made representative of humanity as a whole, effectively concealing the enslavement and repression of the human 'drone,' or 'common people.' The lower classes that account for almost the entire homespun population. Cast extras that will never receive leading roles, they are ignorant, under educated, easily controlled, and unaware of their own deplorable state.
Paulo Freire calls it the "Culture of Silence." Freire, a South American educator and Sociologist, was born to a middle class family in Recife, center of one of the most impoverished and under developed areas in the third world. He began discovering the culture of silence when the economic crisis of 1929 dispossessed his family. Overwhelming paternal, political, social, and economic domination induce ignorance, and lethargy in the lower classes. As well as the methodology, and inadequacy of public schooling, insufficient diet, and physical exhaustion due to manual labor. Freire discovered these forces to leave humans deficient of the critical awareness necessary to grapple with the reality that surrounds them. Victims, oblivious to the damage they cause themselves, unable to perceive the hot coals glowing underfoot. So mankind walks through life unaware of the effect we have on reality, and reality has on us. A culture of silence. In their novel, The Difference Engine, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling surmise the separation of human, and common animal existence, lies in our ability to see ourselves in context with the world around us. By tracing the forces that engendered its' consciousness their computer spontaneously develops artificial human intelligence. Through the ability to isolate and discern the forces that bear upon us, and the reasoning behind our actions we are capable of more than simple existence. This is the ability to step outside of the moment, past survival, past society, past ourselves. By practicing forethought, logic, reasoning, and objective perception we develop willpower, fulfilling Freire's, "Ontological vocation of man." Be a subject who acts upon and transforms his world, developing towards what is accepted as a fuller, richer life.
Your life, more than anything else, is an expression of who you are. It is a canvas or a stage, a roll of film. Living is the first, last, and only thing you do. As with photography or dance, painting or acting, tools must be learned, style developed, and skills honed. It could not be said that all humans live equally well. People struggle through the simplest aspects of life. The most inherent, and obvious, facets of existence (love, self understanding, physical health, etc.) are lost, forgotten, ignored, confused, and twisted into unrecognizable neurosis, and diseases. Why? Who has time to deal with the rest of the world? In The Adjusted American, Gail, and Snell Putney describe the disparity between reality, and self-image. Certain characteristics are viewed socially, or personally, as being repugnant. According to Jung we are filled with paradoxes, and only through the reconciliation, acceptance, or coming to terms in some manner with the contradictions manifest in our character can we release ourselves from subjugation to the unconscious. This means accepting oneself as being the horrible, ugly, and terrible things that surround us. For that matter, anything slightly contrary to the image we hold of ourselves. In each one of our heads there is a created personality viewed as being ourselves, our minds, or our souls. Actions are developed and chosen based on the predicted social reaction in order to create the effects that most closely sustains the self-image that we believe people to have of us. Rather than deal with paradoxes in our personalities, or the reasons for their existence of, we project unaccepted characteristics outside. The judgments we believe people make of us are actually self observations. Some of which are rejected, and others used to substantiate the internal voice that is supposed to be our mind. Rejected values often call for a scapegoat. Since they no longer belong to us we perceive them in others in forms like racism, sexism, ageism, snobbery, religion, philosophy, vanity, etc.. In short humans find faults in, or glorify their entire world to support the image they have developed of themselves without being aware of it at all.
Much more that can be done if we look past our habitual blindness to the world outside, stepping out of ourselves to see that what we perceive to be our soul, mind, or spirit, is nothing but thoughtless reactions to existence. Reactions based on the dysfunctional psychological structure bred by a world wide culture of silence. A legacy passed from parent to child, government to citizen, preacher to the faithful, holy man to disciple, leader to follower, teacher to pupil, performer to audience.... and vice-versa. All conspiring together to suppress the individual. They build emotional walls, damage sensitive psyches, define codes of action, build in habits, train submissiveness, and create equally disturbed individuals to populate the fictitious reality human society has created. What good can come from continuing to live this way? What happens to those that donŐt fit in? It is always the exceptions that expand human understanding. The deviants, free from societies fetters, lead humanity towards understanding, new perception, and personal awareness. Artists, scientists, poets, philosophers, psychologists, drug addicts, schizophrenics, manic depressives that canŐt be silenced. The people trying to find their own path in a barren field. People with a little more, or a little less control, over their mechanisms of perception. This is the cusp upon witch life takes on a whole new meaning.
Can living be art? The ultimate form of expression can only come from understanding, knowledge, perception, and control. Reaching a level on the edge of society, and beginning to see beyond oneself opens the door. It lends limited control over the self. From this beginning stage we learn to see things differently, act more consciously and with less concern for self-image. From here we can develop our skills till one day we find we are free to do anything.