Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is your life and your art meaningful?

Creating Meaning:

Seal here.

What is your purpose in life? It's a loaded question, but once you figure that out, you will find the passion and drive in your art to overcome any obstacle. So, isn't it important enough to know?

Most people, Seal too, confuses meaning with goals. Goals are things you want to accomplish. Meaning is why you want to accomplish these goals. Is your life meaningful? In other words, is your life full of meaning? Is there a reason you get up every day?

Many people have come to Seal with frenetic passion and exclaim their goal: I want to make a comic, a novel, a book, a painting about ____ (blank). My next question usually consists of genuine encouragements and then the dreaded question: "why? what drives you to write that particular story? ... what is your purpose behind this work of art? what is this story REALLY about?"

Recently I wanted to do a painting about an ancient wasteland inhabited by old robots. But when I ask myself why, it took me awhile to find the answer. At first it was, "oh, I don't know. Everyone loves robots and ancient ruins. It looks cool." So I kept asking "why do I want to do this painting? What is the drive behind this painting?" "Why is it so important?" Eventually, I came down to the following answer: I wanted to depict my experiences of abandonment growing up in a household of working parents.Having also survived civil wars in the homeland country, they were emotionally drained and detached towards my sister and me." This was, of course, a far cry from my robots in a wasteland. . . but is it, really? Now that I understand the "meaning" and reason behind this painting, I can fully let my passions out. The robots become something more. It is a statement about myself. It also becomes easier to complete. Because every day I look forward to meeting and conversing with myself within the painting.

I think people often get the wrong idea when I say meaning. They think their meaning has to be "deep" or "grandiose." Monkey can draw monsters and it is still full of meaning. Because he is living truthfully to who he is. He is genuinely doing work for himself and living life with intention and honesty about what he wants to do. He faces his art head on, without apologies or compromises. When he is not drawing or painting, he comforts Seal and supports her dreams. They go on adventures and discover new things. Sometimes they hit a wall and overcome it. He also works passionately for equality and justice by donating his time to teach workshops or donating proceeds from his art. These are some of the many more reasons for why he exists on this earth.

It is simply living day to day with intention. Sometimes, the meaning in my day is as simple as: I would like to make someone laugh, then I draw a squiggly drawing of a penguin inside of a toilet bowl. Sometimes, it's something along the lines of I want to make my friends happy with a delicious meal, a dish I've never cooked before (so I have to research new dishes and learn something new). Those are the day to day meaning. You also need to know what is the overarching meaning to your life. For me, I create art that tell a truth about myself, whether literally or allegorically, in hopes that it resonates with people. It is my meaning, to also lead other people to their dreams. So I also hope to mentor and be mentored by other artists. Meanings sometimes change. As teenagers, (not all of us) but probably we had hoped to learn as much as possible, find friends, and a person to love and be loved. As adults, we tend to want to pass on our knowledge and experiences. As I grow older, sometimes it's simply to share more time with Monkey, friends, and family.

One way to know what your meaning is to ask several questions, here are some to begin with:
  1. what makes me happy?
  2. what do i look forward to every day?
  3. what are some things I truly enjoy doing? (time passes and you don't even know it)
  4. what are my gifts (art, intelligence, listening, etc).
  5. how can I utilize my gifts to get genuine satisfaction out of life? (it can be simply, entertaining people, fighting for a cause, using your gifts to donate to a cause, teach aspiring artists, etc).
Making meaning is scary. It means that you matter. You matter to the world. And what you create matters. That's scary because it also means that you are charged with the important task of making a mark in your everyday world. However big or small.

I'm a firm believer that each individual is put here on earth to do a task. Most likely this task is something that only you can achieve. Only your voice can reach and say your story. Will you take this challenge?

"You decide to matter, to live a principled, creative, active life in support of your cherished ideals, to manifest your potential, to do work,[ . . .] do not presume that your life matters on a cosmic scale or that your efforts will move mountains [although, they might] But in short, it is to make your life meaningful at least to you." - Eric Maisel

For further reading:

Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel

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