The Art of Living
As I Walk With Beauty
As I walk, as I walk
The universe is walking with me
In beauty it walks before me
In beauty it walks behind me
In beauty it walks below me
In beauty it walks above me
Beauty is on every side
As I walk, I walk with Beauty.
Traditional Navajo Prayer
Many compassionate people feel pangs of guilt when they enjoy life, conscious that many in the world live in misery. Such people are often avid supporters and donators to causes that help alleviate suffering and improve the world. However, the question still remains: What place does the enjoyment of life play in the big picture of a conscientious person’s sense of responsibility and sense of self?
A simple definition of how to live artfully might be: To live a life where personal responsibility is achieved through living a happy and beautiful life. Given that we know and relate to our universe through our senses, the art of living is to detach our mind from prejudices and our emotions from possessiveness so that the pure experience of our senses is not distorted. This may not be as easy to do as it is easy to write, but the bottom line is to approach life with openness and gratitude.
Most of the great religions stress that a good life is a life that is harmless. In addition, most stress gratitude for the blessings one has in one’s life. Further, many say that the absolute or the divine spirit reveals itself through Beauty. Beautiful art, music, songs, dances and festivals create a spiritual connection between the individual and the Great Power in the Universe.
What if one felt that he or she is not only responsible to help others but is also responsible to live and enjoy life to the fullest? The desperate act of creating a “bucket list” of unfulfilled wishes when one is terminally ill demonstrates that many defer what they really want to do to the last moment. However, each day gives ample opportunity to savor life and improve life even in the most simple of acts.
Taking pleasure in living is not a materialistic or selfish attitude. The beauty in matter is essentially spiritual. Beauty of relationships is spiritual, and through expressions of beauty people celebrate life and community. I had a great experience recently “showing” beautiful hand woven, hand dyed cloth to a blind person. As I guided her hand over the coarse texture of the weave and the stitches, she smiled with pleasure. Part of the pleasure I am sure was that I took the time to “show” her the cloth and conveyed that her experience was as important to me as were color and design to the sighted. The lesson in this is that we may celebrate the world through whatever senses we are given. I also learned how to “see” in another dimension.
This experience took place at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. Many of the artisans come from countries that are poor, have limited resources for basic human needs much less the luxuries that we take for granted. Water and cooking fuel are often available only after hard work or a long trek. HIV/AIDS are epidemic in some countries. Some live in occupied territories or in countries where personal freedoms and security are precarious. Nevertheless, they all produce objects of beauty to enrich human experience.
So what is the “art of living” for someone who lives in a rich country? It is to live life to the fullest. We cannot help others if we deprive ourselves or become bitter or negative about the pains and challenges of life. If we love life and are open to take fresh approaches and share our discoveries with others, we become participants in life. Self-deprivation, unless done consciously with great joy, makes a person feel alienated. Guilt is the consequence of either lack of integrity or brainwashing. Either extinguishes the vitality that gives a person the energy and motivation to freely and joyfully experience life and to share that energy with others. Experiencing the beauty of life through all of the senses makes one feel like he or she belongs to life.
For example, each meal, no matter how rich or humble, is an opportunity to feast and celebrate the senses. A beautiful meal that is fragrant, tasty, and beautiful to the eyes is a way to give thanks, create happiness and build friendship. Not making each event special is to take life for granted, to be bored, and to sour one’s attitude. A bored, thankless and sour life does little to uplift others and is an insult to the spirit of nature. By enjoying life we share the positive energy of life. It is part of our responsibility as sentient beings to amplify and broadcast the beauty and gifts of the living spirit. The more we enjoy the gifts we have, the more we are likely to share them and want others to experience them. Thus, in taking pleasure in life we reap the benefits of creative inspiration and develop generosity. Music, art, literature, scientific, spiritual, philosophical and cultural expressions, things that enrich existence, are the products of people who wish to share the pleasures of life. The spirit of service grows from a love of living.
The saddest thing to witness in a rich nation such as ours is to see many people living a mechanical life, a life empty of the simple pleasures of the senses, and a life where happiness is based on material possessions. In short, living an artless life. It is so important that we as a country evolve aesthetically where we have conscious experiences of beauty that raise our awareness and sensitivity. When we become sensitive to the beauty in the every-day natural and material world that is close to us, we become sensitive to the beauty and variety in other people and cultures and develop better and enriching relationships.
© 2009 Richard