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Art And The Practice Of Being Yourself

--by Stanley Kunitz (Nov 25, 2013)


There isn’t only one kind of artist in the world, one way of becoming an artist. There is, above all, a need to articulate your own source of being so you will recognize the source and know who you are. How could you be an artist if you didn’t explore your own inner life? There is something in the human being I would call, in the most general terms, a need to transcend the corporeal being and become a person identified by his or her individuating qualities…

As Blake put it, “We must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s.” You have to practice being yourself and not merely exist as a number in a world of billions of numbers…

The creative gift has very complex origins; you’re accumulating and digesting experience, trying to discover its meanings, instead of stuffing it into a closet and moving on to whatever happens to you next. Every experience you have is a lesson in how to live for the next one and if you never learn anything from the experiences of the past, you never mature either as a person or as an artist.

My sense is that you’re born with a more or less empty vault. Perhaps the first experiences are even before that, in the womb, and the vault begins to fill with jewels or painful memories. Each memory of a disastrous experience is there, not only as a wound but as a warning. You have to learn how to recognize the return of the same dilemma you’ve been through before. You have to look at the tag and the price.

Different kinds of memories enter into the making of the self, but among those, there are a few absolutely central memories. They may be traumatic, but they are the crystallization of the creative person’s treasure house…

In a sense, all creativity is a process of giving meaning to what is on a universal scale meaningless. The plant and the poet and the gardener collect these disparate, disorganized raindrops, sun rays, passing birds and make something formal. Creativity gives form to what is in nature ambiguous, suggestive. Language wasn’t there at the beginning. It was created after people had gone through all sorts of experiences and needed to become expressive in order to give meaning to life…

As an artist, you are a representative human being – you have to believe that in order to give your life over to that effort to create something of value. You’re not doing it only to satisfy your own impulses or needs; there is a social imperative. If you solve your problems and speak of them truly, you are of help to others, that’s all. And it becomes a moral obligation.


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21 Previous Reflections:

 
On Dec 3, 2013 Akanksha Thakore Srikrishnan wrote:

 Working in a full-day job I've been wondering where has the artist in me gone...but this gives it such a beautiful meaning, especially the last few lines. I needed to hear this, this morning. It resonates deeply, and I think I'm going to keep coming back to it. Thank you for sharing this, and for inspiring me to share more. :)



On Dec 2, 2013 Lani Chaves wrote:

 Yes, Art is a prayer! Lani-Chaves.blogspot.com



On Nov 28, 2013 Amy wrote:

 This is beautiful!  Thank You!
The creative in me sees the potential in all . . . the lovely . . . the use . . . the Light in all.  Be it a dead branch, cut off from a tree to a living person, the creative mind can find 1000+ different thoughts to think related to that one person /thing.  
God did NOT use a cookie cutter in His creative work and neither should we.
You make me smile!
Happy Thanksgiving!



1 reply: BJ | Post Your Reply
On Nov 28, 2013 Mordechai wrote:

 Just today I awoke with an understanding why "judging" is so "bad". When I judge , "good or bad" it removes me from the experience. When I am removed from the experience I cant accept. When I cant accept,  I am feel lost & disconnected!



1 reply: A | Post Your Reply
On Nov 27, 2013 Rajesh Singh Sisodia wrote:

 Excellent & pragmatic article: It's true that we pass much time in observing & criticizing others rather introspecting ourselves. This act of ours increases negativity with in us. If we are organized with in, only then we can & should expect such behavior from others.
Pledged to remain bare – foot until Corruption is totally uprooted;
Sincerely Yours
 
       (Rajesh Singh Sisodia)
             Organizer
        Nange Paon Satyagraha,
        Address: Vivekanand Nagar, M.G.Road – Ambikapur (C.G.) 497001
        Mob: 9826921897 



On Nov 26, 2013 Rain wrote:

 I love the article. It expresses what I am actively doing in my life right now - stretching into who I am by accepting all that is in me. I do this through a prayer practice which gets me into my heart. Once there, well, I get to see what is there(at any given time), own it, feel it, ask for healing for it, give thanks for it, or whatever route it takes. It widens me, it humbles me, it releases me, it brings me into me and then, even in my fractured, imperfect condition, I am somehow  whole. In this wakeful state, I am not a number, and everything has meaning. I am alive and in ownership of this "being alive"  by being more aware of my heart. 



2 replies: Mish, Rain | Post Your Reply
On Nov 26, 2013 Ganoba wrote:

 There can be no art without being true to oneself.
Immitation may be entertaining but is not art.



On Nov 26, 2013 Bob S wrote:

I do not believe that we are "born more or less with an empty vault."  I believe we are born again and again and who we are  as in this lifetime is the sum total of all our experiences and lessons from previous lifetimes.  If you notice little children, at even a fairly young age they have different talents, personalities and fears.  Surely these weren't developed or accumulated in a just a few years.  I do agree that different memories enter into making the self, and that we come into each existence with lessons to learn.  Some are easy and some can be very difficult. Much of our mission is remembering who we really are beyond our physical bodies.  How we address those opportunities during our current time on earth will determine how we leave to go  Home, and eventually we evolve to the point where we come back to help, or stay to help, or experience even broader opportunities to help in the great scheme of things that is beyond our l  See full.

I do not believe that we are "born more or less with an empty vault."  I believe we are born again and again and who we are  as in this lifetime is the sum total of all our experiences and lessons from previous lifetimes.  If you notice little children, at even a fairly young age they have different talents, personalities and fears.  Surely these weren't developed or accumulated in a just a few years.  I do agree that different memories enter into making the self, and that we come into each existence with lessons to learn.  Some are easy and some can be very difficult. Much of our mission is remembering who we really are beyond our physical bodies.  How we address those opportunities during our current time on earth will determine how we leave to go  Home, and eventually we evolve to the point where we come back to help, or stay to help, or experience even broader opportunities to help in the great scheme of things that is beyond our limited human consciousness - more in the realm of love than of mind.

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1 reply: Ishwar | Post Your Reply
On Nov 26, 2013 Sanjay wrote:

 I love the idea that life is essentially meaningless unless we use creativity to give it structure. There is poetry in that idea. 



On Nov 26, 2013 BJ wrote:

 The expression 'creativity is the process which gives meaning to what is meaningless' really struck home with me because that is what  I want to show thru my work---the ordinary beautiful.



On Nov 26, 2013 Rajni Gohil wrote:

 This is a life changing article everyone should read.  By practicing a life suggested, one can change the world, first changing oneself.  It is very difficult to describe the feelings I have, for this article is a  priceless gem. 



On Nov 26, 2013 Mish wrote:

Excellent, insightful, "creative" & thought provoking .  Well done.  Thank you.  Each of us unique & marching to our own beat. United by  oneness at the same time.....different branches of the same tree, each blooming as it will.



On Nov 25, 2013 TEJU BHATE wrote:

 



1 reply: Peter | Post Your Reply
On Nov 23, 2013 david doane wrote:

You practice being yourself by being yourself.  I don't think there is another way.  I may not be good at it and it may be risky, but it's worth it.  And the alternative is to not be myself, and what sense does that make.  I think it was Joseph Campbell who said "Being your self is the privilege of a lifetime."  I also see it as my responsibility.  If I don't be myself, I and the world are deprived of me.  My being creative is my being my unique self, offering my unique perspective, sharing my unique experience, which offers my meaning to what is happening.  I don't think all that is is meaningless -- I think it just is.  I do think that my being myself offers my unique expression and touch and meaning, and no one else can do that.  This I have learned by being myself more and more over time.  As someone said, "If not me, then who?  If not now, when?"  The culture tries to get each of us to get in line, be numbers or rob  See full.

You practice being yourself by being yourself.  I don't think there is another way.  I may not be good at it and it may be risky, but it's worth it.  And the alternative is to not be myself, and what sense does that make.  I think it was Joseph Campbell who said "Being your self is the privilege of a lifetime."  I also see it as my responsibility.  If I don't be myself, I and the world are deprived of me.  My being creative is my being my unique self, offering my unique perspective, sharing my unique experience, which offers my meaning to what is happening.  I don't think all that is is meaningless -- I think it just is.  I do think that my being myself offers my unique expression and touch and meaning, and no one else can do that.  This I have learned by being myself more and more over time.  As someone said, "If not me, then who?  If not now, when?"  The culture tries to get each of us to get in line, be numbers or robots in the social machinery, and it's important to find time and ways to be oneself, be creative, and stay alive.

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On Nov 22, 2013 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:

 Excellent article. Paradoxically I practice being myself by not practicing but rather by being myself with my flaws and warts.. Paradoxically again, being creative is not being creative when one is just being oneself. By that I mean "trying" to be myself or "trying" to be creative is not being myself and not being creative. If I were myself and and creative I would not need to "try." This again relates to the paradox that it takes much effort to move toward effortless living. I am now considered "an old man" but I find that I am still learning to be myself. Sometimes I extend effort and sometimes I don't. As the old saying goes sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits.. Being aware is the key to being yourself and being creative. wanting to know too much in advance what will happen before it happens prevents one from being oneself and prevents one from being creative. Simply notice your noticing while you are noticing and accept what you notice. If you want to chang  See full.

 Excellent article. Paradoxically I practice being myself by not practicing but rather by being myself with my flaws and warts.. Paradoxically again, being creative is not being creative when one is just being oneself. By that I mean "trying" to be myself or "trying" to be creative is not being myself and not being creative. If I were myself and and creative I would not need to "try." This again relates to the paradox that it takes much effort to move toward effortless living. I am now considered "an old man" but I find that I am still learning to be myself. Sometimes I extend effort and sometimes I don't. As the old saying goes sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits.. Being aware is the key to being yourself and being creative. wanting to know too much in advance what will happen before it happens prevents one from being oneself and prevents one from being creative. Simply notice your noticing while you are noticing and accept what you notice. If you want to change something. Change it. If you don't, don't.  As usual, you may notice I don't know much and I find that to be just fine. For me I find there's often nothing to know, nothing to attain, nothing to realize for everything is fine as it is. I often find that if I allow events to happen rather than make them happen that I am more of myself and I am simultaneously than more creative.Warm and kind regards to everyone.

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