Exploring Life is a journey into mercurial frontiers of experience that conjure potent states of vulnerability, adversity, and liminality. A natural human desire is to imbue the experience of being alive with meaning. The underlying ground of this desire is impermanence; that is, the individual quest for meaning takes place on a temporal expanse that is fleeting, volatile, and finite. Defining periods in our lives often emerge on the frontiers of uncertainty, hardship, surprise, humility, and awe. And it is here, in the crucible of the great mystery, that artistry becomes our most precious resource.
Artistry is the summit of meaning-making; that is, the artistic process is, in a deep sense, a search for meaning. An artist is an individual who surrenders to the full force of life in the spirit of exploring life for the purpose of adding breadth and depth to the experience of being alive for self and others at the same time. The liberating function of artistry is to unite the material with the spiritual, the individual with the universal, and the soul with the great mystery. In this sense, artistry is the dynamic energy we use to navigate the more foreboding frontiers of experience in which our wellbeing, and perhaps survival, hinges on our capacity for discernment, intuition, and creativity. Artistry is transformative and always begins close in.
Start close in,David Whyte, Start Close In
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
Inner life is the underlying ground of meaning. Authentic artistry begins close in, with the step we may not want to take perhaps because of potential life changes it may provoke. We prefer to cling to the fragile illusion of “normal” rather than stepping directly into the mystery on our own accord. We tend to avoid, deny, or medicate inner life, especially when it conjures the darker emotions. The idea of sitting still, doing nothing, and remaining silent may feel foreboding even though it offers a sacred space for contemplation. However, it is direct, immediate, subjective, and lived experience that is our most precious resource in our quest for meaning.
Every individual is a unique variation on the theme of life. Each one of us inhabits an utterly unique experiential milieu animated by a distinct and complex array of situations, circumstances, and interactions. It is impossible for two people to move through life in the same way. This reveals that the quest for meaning is always unique, subjective, and varied because it originates in lived experience. In a collective sense, however, self-realization is a valuable contribution to the greater good and our innate need for mutual understanding, compassion, and belonging.
Collectively, we live together under the burden of unstable circumstances and troubling trends. Economic activity has desecrated the earth, destroyed species diversity, and polluted water, land, and air. Racism, prejudice, and discrimination prevent genuine social transformation. Frail notions of success, wealth, power, and nation continue their macabre march. Corporations continue their looting spree under the guise of progress. Systemic wealth inequity thwarts the possibility of genuine cultural evolution. Material goods, hyper-competitiveness, and profiteering have primacy over the value of human lives as well as ecological wellbeing.
And now, the Covid-19 pandemic imposes a global rite of passage and serves as a stark reminder of our subservience to forces we cannot fully comprehend nor mitigate. Of course, there is always good to be found in the world and it is the preservation, cultivation, and elevation of individual and collective wellbeing that is our way out.
Human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace. Nowhere is there such intimate and frightening access to the mysterium. Friendship is the sweet grace that liberates us to approach, recognize, and inhabit this adventure.John O’Donohue, Anam Cara
The purpose of Exploring Life is to embrace the spirit and grace of friendship with self, others, nature, and the mysterium. The work of an artist is to look deeply into the mysteries inherent in their own experience, strive to tolerate ambiguity and preserve uncertainty, discern value, and then creatively express it to the world in a way that touches something vital in the human condition. It is ironic that the important work of self-realization inevitable leads to a selfless existence driven by artistry and a quest for meaning.
However, it is on the more mercurial and volatile frontiers of experience that the liberating energy of friendship is desperately needed. And it is the confluence of inner life and the outer world through the grace friendship that provides the first step for the adventure ahead.
Note: Link to Exploring Life FB page.