Every child is an artist. The problem is how to
remain an artist once he grows up.
In today’s world, it seems that the good, the true and the beautiful are becoming ever more elusive. We already live within a shattered worldview divorced from our connection to Oneness from whence our spiritual nutrients could flow if we would choose to receive them. Art is among the sources from which those nutrients come to us. Our Indo-European language gives us many clues and hence, some guideposts that might redirect our search for wholeness.
The root for the word art itself was a verb that meant “to put things together.” Since, the “root” of human suffering can be found in the shattering of Oneness, artistic activities involving a synthesis or “putting together” a new paradigm would certainly be a worthwhile activity. “For instance, artist’s lives are characterized by constant struggle to translate inner realities into understandable outer forms. Both keen frustration and deep satisfaction also mark an artist’s life; this is not the idler’s way.”
Our next word skill was also a verb defined as the mental capacity to draw distinctions. The fundamental skill missing in the community of the Global Village is to draw the distinction between illusion and reality. As the word developed in Old Norse, it also meant discernment. Today, a key synonym of discernment that we might add is that of insight. An example of a profound insight would be that which Buddha had before he rose from his historic meditation during which he intuited the cause of human suffering as being craving and aversion. This skill of discernment is at the heart of that branch of philosophy known as metaphysics. Transcending our identification with the world of form is a prerequisite in our search for the good, the true and the beautiful.
Another verb which in its Greek origin meant “to discern” or “to perceive” was aesthetic. We could say that the opposite meaning of aesthetic is “anesthetic,” that is to say, being devoid of feeling or sensation. In P-B some of us have become almost frantic in our search for substances and processes that anesthetize our ability to “feel” our suffering, we have become adept at self-medicating. In fleeing our sense of the aesthetic, we are ironically running from the very experience we all long for—that of the good, the true and the beautiful.
One problem that we can address to help us begin to re-awaken our aesthetic sensibility is how we define art. Eric Booth, an award winning Shakespearean actor and teacher at the Julliard School, defines it this way: “Art is putting together; skill is the invisible mental capacities that can lead to good performances; aesthetics is the action of complex understanding.”
In the context of Simple Reality art is broadly defined and everyone is seen and appreciated as an artist. Eric Booth agrees. “Everyone has the basic competencies of art, the potential for engaging in art, and the birthright to work toward its rewards no matter what their profession or education. The skills of art live in the minds and hearts of all people.” “We need art so that we don’t die of reality.”
Just as the small “r” reality of P-B is killing us, the large “R” perfection of Simple Reality leads us to the good, the true and the beautiful. The mystic Thomas Troward pointed out that if we were aware that we already lived in a perfect Creation we would realize that the Beautiful and the Good are the outer and inward expression of the same thing. “But in our search for a higher Beauty than we have yet found we must beware of missing the Beauty that already exists. Perfect harmony with its environment, and perfect expression of its own inward nature of the thing or its environment may shut our eyes to the Beauty it already has.” We dare not take our eye off of the unifying principle of Oneness or we will be stuck in the shattered intellect-driven reality that judges and labels, divides and alienates.
We have not failed to find the good, the true and the beautiful, we are instead like the fish thrashing about in a frantic search for the ocean.
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry.