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Part VII, Music, Art, Crafts, Architecture, Dance, Nature, Story Tellers

By Remy Benoit

The arts for creative expression and healing.
The personal life dearly lived always extends into truths beyond itself.
—Anais Nin

The art forms are a necessary element in any culture.

We often find ourselves working too hard and long; worrying too much; or without direction.

At times these three things overlap and we find ourselves listless, bored, agitated, and feeling without hope.

If we persist long enough living with these feelings they become overwhelming and eventually stupefy the soul until we become convinced that the life we are living is normal. If it seems to be "normal" by societal standards, even if we find it exhausting, draining and unrewarding, there is a tendency to pursue it with gusto to become better at it. The feeling often is, perhaps I can improve it, do it better, find something rewarding and emotionally supportive if I only find the right track, the right pace, the right way to achieve success.

To pursue with vigor is to accomplish, to overtake something, to complete something, to win, but at what cost?—over work—worry-boredom—

Because we have been raised in a competitive society; raised to "get the grade," "climb the corporate ladder," we tend to measure our "success" by grades, by paychecks, rather than by feelings of personal accomplishment and soul fulfillment.

Relief, restoration, renewed vigor, a satisfaction engendered by a change is demanded by the human psyche. If some satisfying diversion is not forthcoming, the individual will retreat into some delusion, or the self-imprisonment of denial, and the doldrums of comfortable old habits.

Change requires a desire for change. Change requires that we leave our comfort zones where we feel some kind of 'security,' even if those comfort zones are quite uncomfortable, heart and soul draining.

For change to occur, sustained and directed effort must be exerted. In order to have direction, purpose, we must critically evaluate exactly, precisely what we want and what changes are necessary to be implemented. We must be prepared to accept that those close to us may not want these changes in us, may feel threatened by them and throw up obstacles to keep us where we are, where they are comfortable with us.

The change may be a simple thing, a beginning thing. Doing one thing differently in your life brings other changes to the surface where you can evaluate them, accept, or reject them. The best point of reference for that is does the change that seems to be coming keep you on purpose, or divert you?

Staying with the new purpose begins to bring you a sense of accomplishment and personal fulfillment. There is no need to argue, or defend your life alteration; simply stay honest with it, and do not feel that you have to defend it. When you go on the defensive, others are forced to an offensive. Thank them for their input, consider it if it is valid and not simply their emotional outburst.

Eventually, sincerely applied change can become effortless if you remain open to new ideas, new things, new people appearing in your life who will be guides, helpers, along the way.

We have an intrinsic need as human beings to feel useful, purposeful, and appreciated. How many times have the questions, Why am I here? What is my purpose? What was I supposed to learn from that experience? entered your mind?

We may find ourselves in one of two situations as we live our daily lives.

Our pleasure is pleasure and totally separate from our work.

Some of us have found a way to combine the two and pleasure and work are intertwined.

The initial group are by far in the majority. That is not surprising, for if you think back, how young were you when you started hearing that in order to make it, you had to work hard, very hard. If you can remember even one person saying that you should enjoy your work, well, perhaps you are among the fortunate few who did hear that.

But life favors the fortunate few in the second group. Their life is a natural harmony. For them there are never enough hours, each day is a delight. Each day is a holiday, and sometimes "real" holidays are viewed as interruptions to their pleasurable, absorbing vocation. Yet to both classes the need of an alternative outlook, a change of atmosphere, some kind of diversion is essential. Even those who have happily joined work and pleasure need to be re-created.

When one surveys the large array of sages, saints, historians, novelists, scientists, poets and philosophers whose treasures, whose work is so vast, one realizes one will never be able to admire, still less, enjoy, but a fraction because of our brief tenure in life. But because of our hunger for knowledge we insist that we can and will devour their offerings.

Other means of diversion include perhaps expressing ourselves in writing poetry, or prose. That might take any number of forms: non-fiction, fiction, screenplays, chapbooks, Internet writing, a neighborhood or workplace newspaper, a newsletter, etc.

Music might be another choice for diversion.

There is also art, not only to appreciate, but to participate.

Consideration might be given to acquiring the use of another language, learning to play a favored instrument, or painting in oils or water colors.

And then, there is, of course, the possibility that in finding the diversion, one may find the true vocation.

To appreciate any art form is to know art by association, familiarizing with it at first hand. Try to see many different creations in different styles and afford yourself a chance to make comparisons. With each contact something valuable is attained; a step forward, a step to either side, or even backward. All these occasions are life enhancing, which is the goal of art. In the process of exploring painting, sculpture, music, architecture, no one is expected to react favorably to all they will find; art is an individual matter. A work of art may make a contribution to some, while it may prove distasteful to others.

Therein lies something of art's unique significance.

—A. J. Kinkay
To me there is no past or future in art. If a work of art cannot live always in the present it must not be considered at all. The art of the Greeks, of the Egyptians, of the great painters who lived other times, is not art of the past, perhaps it is more alive than it ever was.
—Pablo Picasso

Have you considered the role of the arts in your life, in your writing, in your character's life?

Consider your own taste in art; what draws you, what repels you? What does your taste tell you about yourself? What kind of art, and what time period of art, do you find yourself drawn to?

Try writing a dialogue as you act as a guide for Michelangelo on a tour of a museum of modern art. Imagine explaining a skyscraper to a Medieval serf. Let your mind wander with the possibilities of these conversations.

Consider the timelessness of some creations: Picasso's Guernica, for example would probably be understood in most times and places.

If you had the choice of any great masterpiece of art, from any time in history, to have for your own, which piece would you select?

Picture yourself hanging the work on your wall, and sitting down to write a letter of welcome to it. What would you say to the painting? What words could you draw up to tell it what it expresses to you, makes you feel? What words could you find to explain to it why you chose it above all others?

Consider your character. What would her/his choice of painting be? Would it be the same as your personal choice? Would it be perhaps your second choice? Or perhaps it would be the choice of some aspect of your personality that you have not explored. Still, it could simply be a choice that reflects the characters personality, perhaps a part of it that has hitherto been unexplored.

How would a soldier in combat who had not yet been able to see his new baby react to a postcard of a painting of a mother and child by Mary Cassett? What emotions might come spilling out, and how would he tend to them?

Perhaps you could get yourself some watercolors, or oils, and a canvas and just give yourself free reign to see what emerges on it. You might keep a journal of the emotions that are surfacing as the painting progresses, and then, when it is finished, go back and explore what you have learned about yourself in this exercise.

If you feel intimidated by paints, oils, you might want to try a simple cut and paste collage. Get yourself a pile of magazines and let your imagination wander. The results of the collage often bring surprises, insights, into what you are currently feeling, or about something, someplace that you would like to have in your life. Again, you might want to keep an in progress journal for your writing and your own enlightenment

And then, of course, there is clay, or flour and salt mixtures, to make and create worlds with. Let yourself go, and see where you go.


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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