by Fu-Ding Cheng: Hello Everyone, It is the midst of summer when Mother Nature is in the throes of cultivating and growing what was planted in the spring. Likewise with us. The energy in the air supports our instincts to manifest and express impulses from our hearts. These may take the form of business ventures, raising children, and/or creative projects. In moments like these, it is opportune to consider…
Beauty and the Art of Life
In our cynical society, much confusion whirls around the concept of beauty. Often confused with surface appearances, the concept of beauty has often deteriorated into sentimentality and sappy prettiness. No wonder many in the art world scoff at the word. And yet, that is another delusion. So as not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, let’s examine fundamentals of what constitutes beauty. Thanks to shamanic wisdom traditions East and West, many have come to realize that the greatest artwork anyone can create is their own life. In this case, the principles of beauty apply to all of us.
As an artist, I had long been wrestling with these thoughts until I ran across a passage in A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. It proved to be a godsend. Far from the sappy sentimentality mentioned above, his requirements for beauty held a rigor and power that I greatly appreciated. Finally, I had words for feelings and experiences I could not express:
“Three things are needed for beauty––
wholeness, harmony, and radiance.”
Ever since then, this understanding about beauty has guided me not only in all artistic endeavors, but also in the conduct of life:
Wholeness––In the infinite continuum of life, wholeness defines an object as distinct and complete unto itself. Whether temporal (as in music) or spatial (as in artwork), we apprehend the object as self-bounded and self-contained. We perceive it as one thing, whole unto itself. Applied to our lives, are we our own person, true to ourselves? Do we live with our own integrity with proper boundaries in our life? Are we our own person, not blindly living the way of parents or the conventions of society?
Harmony––After perceiving the object as one thing, we apprehend that it is complex, made up of parts, divisible with all components coming together in harmony. Applied to our lives, are we able to balance all aspects of our existence? Considering our needs for activity and rest, home and career, and the cultivation of spiritual, mental, emotional and physical bodies, do we have the rigor and self-discipline to keep them all in harmony?
Radiance––Having perceived the wholeness of an object and the harmonious relation of all its parts, our hearts are instantly enchanted by an esthetic pleasure that seems to glow beyond the object. It is what it is, so true unto itself that it radiates beyond itself. Applied to our lives, do we strive towards something bigger than ourselves? Are we motivated by self-importance of the ego, or impulses of our hearts?
If we use beauty as a way to guide our thoughts, words and deeds, we will indeed transform our very lives into masterworks of art. The practice of beauty in lives of great personalities all around us (including ourselves!) can often be seen in their living charisma and in their works, which often radiate well past the specific time and place of their physical lives. And in a powerful application of these principles, we used to say during Men’s Multicultural Conferences in the nineties when we addressed cultural diversity, gang violence and racial prejudice that a path to resolution is … to practice beauty.
May your activities be inspired, powerful and beautiful.