Since childhood we are taught to build up expectations of what we will do in our lives. In the Doris Day song about anxieties of the future, the songwriter first asks, “Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?” and then towards the end of the song, the children ask her the same question, “Will I be handsome, will I be rich?”. It is as if this simple phrase sums up our expectations from life. The American dream, now the capitalist dream, is to end up rich. Once you have money, you would be able to buy things that make you happy.
But time and again it has been shown that money does buy you comfort, and yes it is an important milestone, it is not something that gives you a lifelong sense of happiness and satisfaction. For lasting happiness, it would make sense to look elsewhere.
If we look at the great empires of the past, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Mughals or recent ones like the French and the British, the ultimate showcase of their power is art. Whether expressed as paintings, buildings, sculpture, engineering, storytelling or music and theatre. Whether you go to Broadway or Trafalgar Square or the Louvre or Agra, the mastery of form is what remains. Even the ancient religions of the Greeks and Egyptians have faded away but the Acropolis and the Sphinx still stand. The museums of the world select pieces of art that generations have preserved and would like to be remembered by.
What is Art?
These are questions that have haunted humanity since the ancient Greeks started recording their commentaries on virtues like art, beauty, courage. Art to me is a creation that unlocks a deep understanding of the universe. Art is not only aesthetic and beautiful, it forces you to stop and think. It asks questions you had never asked before and shows you pathways you neer thought existed. It throws light on a dark secret of our existence.
Photo by Matthieu Comoy on Unsplash
You create art when you push yourself beyond the threshold of what you think is possible. Not in a way that stamps your superiority on the world but in the spirit of discovery and experimentation. You create an expression that seems just “right”. Art can be part of every human expression, whether it is a story, a presentation, a document, setting up the table for dinner or just managing your daily schedule. You can create art in whatever you do.
Everyone can be an Artist
All through our early lives, we have been told to learn new things that will help us become contributors to society. We are at a point in society where there are too many people and machines willing to contribute things and not enough people to “buy” them. While this seems like a bad thing, the upside of living in a world of surplus is that all of us can aspire to do things that are beyond just “making a living”.
We have the opportunity to explore and discover the meaning of our own human experience through journeys we take pushing the barrier of what is possible. We can create art in everything we do, whether writing a blog post or explaining a customer, or making a piece of software or making sure it works right.
Not only does art make you happy, it delights everyone around you. It inspires and lights up our world in ways we have never seen before. In a world where people are ready to pay millions of dollars for fake art tokens, taking an artist's approach to everyday things will make your memorable and worthy. It will also increase your value and contribution to society.
But that is not really the primary goal, it is secondary. It is art, only if it is truly for art’s sake.
Rushabh is a software developer and founder of ERPNext. He usually writes about the startup experience, open source and the technologies he is working on.