Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Making Life More (than) Bearable

I came across an interesting quotation from Kurt Vonnegut (A Man without a Country):

“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

The quotation set me off cogitating – well it doesn’t take much as you’ve probably noticed (!) but it definitely posed an interesting question viz:

How many reasons are there to practice an art?

It makes you a more interesting person
For one thing, have you noticed how those people who practice no art at all are boring and lifeless?  And how engaging and fascinating those are who do practice some art form – no matter what. ( Educational background is not particularly relevant here, especially with today’s artless curricula.  Yes there are great art classes in the private schools, but that’s not where most of our children go…and of course I’m off topic..not difficult for me with my knight's move thinking....But just notice how those who sing, dance, play an instrument, write, draw, paint, quilt, mess about with bits of metal or stone or wood…etc are really fascinating people. Being creative makes you more alive.

It’s actually very good for the brain!
There’s a vogue right now for “brain puzzles” to improve your brain.  These are actually a complete scam based on the suggestion (never proven, several experimenters have tried to prove this and failed) that they will help your brain, or prevent dementia.  They’re sold by the same people who sell you expensive creams to turn your skin overnight from skin with the gentle honest patina of age, into dewy youth!! And the reason those puzzles don’t work its because in doing them you’re essentially practicing the same skills over and over.  Suduko not only gets boring once you’ve figured out the main steps towards solving it, but also does not make those little bits of grey matter any more active!
BUT – any Art involves the constant learning of new skills, the constant development of new ideas, the practicing of new steps, new compositions, new raw materials, creating new designs.

It is much more rewarding being actively engaged in life, rather than passively watching others do things.
I always feel so sad when tv “specials” show people having a good time – at a holiday, or a party, a special event and they suggest to you that by watching those people partying you will yourself feel as if you too had a good time.  Vicarious living.  Art engages you with real paint, real cloth, real words, real raw materials, real discussions – you don’t need to watch other people having a good time (or more likely pretending to be having a good time for the cameras!), you can do it yourself!!

The creative life is not only bearable, but good
Well Vonnegut wasn’t always the happiest of blokes, so if  he found creativity to make life bearable, I would think for most of us, it would take the quality of life up from bearable into Definitely Good – something worth getting up in the morning for!

Your comments!
So, why do you think that practicing an art is good for you?  Would you agree with Vonnegut, or disagree?  Have you noticed a difference since you became an art quilter?
  Please do comment – especially creatively!! Remember what it can do for you – and it’s free!!  And, thank you so much for reading – if you have been of course!!!   Elizabeth
  ps  note the importance of a nice cuppa tea when practicing.................................


Susan Lane said...

Elizabeth, you come up with the best stuff. Not only are people who engage in the arts more engaged in life, but I think they live longer too. All the ideas I want to explore drive me forward and make life interesting!

Karen@littlebirdiequilting said...

I think that by engaging in art of any type you are using more senses, you are more observant to what is happening all around you and this all keeps the brain engaged. Art is life.

Jeanne Marklin said...

When our brains are fully engaged, we feel truly alive. Making art means you are always problem solving and those challenges keep our mental gymnastics very active. When I am trying to figure out how to overdye a multicolored fabric, I can consider the possibilities for hours. Being so engaged in any art makes us more interesting people. And, or days are filled with color!

irene macwilliam said...

Making art is an occupation, it is compelling and satisfying, one is not bored waiting for some excitement to come out of the ether, in fact the more uneventful life is the better for creating. One has always got something to think about when sitting around in airports, train stations etc. Creating is exciting.

sonja said...

great post. amen to all the above comments. So for me art making is a "be here now" sport that allows me to use my "what if i" to follow current thread/idea. i use what i have on my tables one choice leads to another set up problem/how to resolve, a kind of dance and never boring.

Sharon Robinson said...

I've been cogitating on this topic lately too -but I find my brain running in circles. Why do we make art? Because it makes us feel alive, awake, engaged.... But why does it make us feel this way? Is it just a certain section of our brains that is neurologically stimulated? I think it is probably very close to what happens when an addict gets a "hit" of their drug of choice. Or is it more philosophical and less biological? I took a whole semester class on the philosophy of art long ago, but I still don't know!

Regina B Dunn said...

Since becoming an artist (in my 50s), I take life more slowly because I look more closely, I listen harder, I think deeper. I feel this makes me more healthy, emotionally. Also, I've broadened my group of friends and I socialize more and I feel like I have more to say than I did before. When I go on my bike rides now, I stop part way and do a sketch of something on the trail and I write down the sounds I hear at the time. My life is definitely more full now, as an artist, than it was before.

U.L. said...

I think if everybody were making some kind of art, it would be a much better world, all over. Because people experience an inner peace when they have accomplished something in that realm ( ok - there's that anxiety when trying to get there, but ...) So perhaps 'make art, not war' would be a good thing these days.
And don't forget the tea, it might get cold!

Susan Lane said...

I get excited when I'm working on a project. Watching it evolve through my problem solving and imagination. I love my life as an artist. I'm always thinking, researching, exploring can I make this better? I'm convinced this kind of activity will keep my mind healthy for many years to come.