In answering the question Does art imitate life or does life imitate art? I venture to say the relationship between art and human life is synergetic. In other words, art and life each nourish the other and at best transcend their literal union to reach a higher level of awareness, joy, and spirituality than either might attain without joining forces. But more essential, the best in humanity outdistances even the most valuable art—every single time.
For example, when an individual reads a good book, she or he is transported to another world that offers new awareness, enlightenment, and often inspiration. We might conclude the better the book, the more it touches the reader. If so, it follows that great literature—reading considered art by presumed experts—has superior capability to move its readers to higher levels of appreciation and consciousness. To some extent, this is true. However, appreciating a book and reaching a more meaningful understanding of life from reading it are very subjective matters. People have widely varying tastes in regard to what constitutes good reading.
It’s much the same with any other art form, including painting and all forms of visual art, as well as music, and even film, which is a burgeoning form of artistic self-expression. While some works attract more attention than others, the most obscure painting, musical composition, or independent film may be extraordinary in its beauty to the eyes, ears, and emotions of its more receptive beholders, or even one person perceiving it who finds transcendence to a loftier state of awareness.
This power of art to uplift human consciousness also applies to its creators—probably even more than to those who read it, view it, hear it, or otherwise consume it. Artists, composers, writers, and film directors may spend hours—quite possibly years—investing thoughts and feelings in their works of art. To refine and improve the quality of their self-expression, they often sacrifice what others would consider a normal life—including family life, material comforts, and leisure time someone else might take for granted.
The question is: What is the source of inspiration for those who create art, music, books and film—anything considered a work of art? While part of the source is likely other works of art, musical compositions, books, etc, which most aesthetics study in relation to their craft, there needs to be something more—something that makes that individual’s creation unique. It needs to be a statement that only he or she can share with the universe. It comes from deep within the creator’s consciousness, emotions, senses, even his or her soul, if you will. It must have integrity; that is, it must be honest, according to that person’s perceptions of reality and responses to life. All of this comes from his or her life experience, and conceivably the experience of his or her ancestors through genetic inheritance.
I believe the most powerful feeling is love, expressed as a noun but also a verb. When we express love, offering it as a gift to others, we are acting on our highest level of consciousness. We don’t need to create a tangible work of art to accomplish this. Our value as individual human beings is greater than any painting, book, song, or whatever art form we may create, especially when we consciously develop our capacity to give our love—ideally to every human being and especially those close to us. We can develop our ability to love to the level of an art form though our daily communication. With the practice of sharing our love our human potential is infinite; in a vital way, we can say it achieves immortality.
Our emotions, especially feelings of love, need to be honest and authentic before they can hold any worthwhile meaning. Although it’s often best to try to turn a negative situation into something more positive, our expression of love can’t always be cheerful, happy-go-lucky, or jovial. Just like the best works of art express an array of complex emotions—a painting displays light tones against dark, a musical masterpiece blends major and minor keys—our strongest human feelings are so deep that they sometimes seem unfathomable. Emotions require our honest examination to express them with accuracy as they convey the love and honor that others deserve, by virtue of being human.
When our actions reflect our authentic self-expression—with love at the apex of our attention—we are the creators of caring and meaningful lives. While art can enrich our lives, it’s not a prerequisite to becoming fine human beings. Beyond this, a life well-lived is never dependent on riches or fame to be a tour de force!
Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones