The above illustration by Maira Kalman (part of a series called “Can Do”) is the most inspirational thing I’ve read/seen recently. It very succinctly explains what life is and how to live it.
Understanding that “everything is invented” is the doorway to freedom and destroys any feelings of powerlessness.
- Everything is made up.
- Things that are made up have no power of over you.
- You become empowered when you discover #1 and #2 and make things up yourself.
“Things don’t exist in some natural state” means that at one point everything you see wasn’t there (and everyone was OK) and now because of ingenuity, courage, determination, and creativity they now exist (and everyone is still OK).
All art is a demonstration and understanding that “everything is invented” and “things don’t exist in some natural state”. I love art because it is proof and a reminder that no one is powerless and anything is possible.
When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.
That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.
A wise sage once said: “A man climbs a mountain because it is there. A man makes a work of art because it is not there.”
It’s not so much art I love, but the artist’s mentality that creates something that is not there. Or, they see and discover something new in things that already exist and it reminds me to do the same. It’s anti-consumerist.
Like Christoph Niemann’s Biodiversity. He made art out of something that you can find on the ground. He didn’t create anything new. He saw something new in something that was right in front of him.
Austin Kleon’s Newspaper Blackout art takes what’s in front of him and removes what isn’t necessary:
Michael Davidson’s Bevshots were created by looking really, really closely at what was in front of him (alcohol):
Anyone can do this. Anyone can see clearly or see differently. There are no limits and no one is excluded.
I remember when The Gates went up in Central Park in 2005, many people asked “what’s the point?”
What’s the point? I thought the question was odd. What’s the point of anything? What’s the point of a prom? Or giving a woman a diamond ring as a promise to marry? The idea of having a prom was invented just like the idea to put up The Gates in Central Park was invented. The idea of a “park” was invented. What’s the difference between The Gates and a prom or a park? Many people believe in holding and attending the prom and creating man-made natural spaces and fewer people believe that orange fabric on metal frames belong in Central Park. The point of it is … making people question what the point of anything is.
I love The Gates and all contemporary art because it is the opposite of banal. People like banality because it’s safe. Anything original forces you to question everything. And that might be scary to some people. It’s exciting to me.
I’ve written before that art is one of my religions because with art anything is possible and that phrase is what I think of when I think of God. I don’t believe in a God who is in heaven listening to prayers and saying yes to some and no to others. God is an idea to me and that idea is “anything is possible”.
I read this quotation by Sam Keen years ago and it has always stuck with me: “Despair is hidden arrogance: I have seen the future and it doesn’t work. Hope is rooted in trust in the unknown.” To be hopeless is to assume that the future will be like the present. To have faith is to be humble enough to say “I don’t know what will happen. Anything is possible.”
The point of art and life is to make the impossible possible. It is to invent stuff, believe in that stuff, abandon it, and invent new stuff. And on and on…
So go invent something.