What is art?

I’ve sometimes been pulled into conversations where a piece of art is questioned, which then leads to a discussion on what art is after all. In this day and age, technology enables everyone to be all they can be, produce any material and even make it go viral. Every day there’s a new meme or article or concept that screams for our attention and with billions of technology-enabled people and several million other trigger happy folk across the spectrum of receptivity on any given day, you do the math on the information and concept overload. Having to parse some of this stuff could build resentment in the viewer especially if they cannot relate to what is being presented. I get it.

This got me thinking about what art is really. Generally speaking, a message or a concept in the form of a presentation, whether it is  a painting or poetry or prose or photograph or performance or procedure or proposal is considered art. But really speaking, there is a subjective element to it i.e. it isn’t just what the artist or the conveyor is trying to say, but also what the conveyee is receiving. Literally 1/2 of the meaning lies in the reception. The light bulb goes off only when the circuit is complete. Therefore the question really ought to be, what is art *to you*?

To me, something that makes me stop in my tracks and pay attention is art. It could be the written word (anything from a couplet to a novel), a picture (anything from a doodle to a well engineered photographic capture), a piece of performance art…Something that represents a concept that I have either toyed with before but not cemented in my head yet or something that just blows my mind is art to me. It does not suffice if it merely just comes in any of the forms I mentioned above. It needs to (a) have an underlying meaning (b) induce a sensation in me which could be laughter, awe, discomfort, surprise, shock or something equally potent and lastly (c) be tastefully done from a purely technical standpoint. To me art is all about its potency in inducing emotion, in raising a question or delivering some intrigue, in sparking a conversation. This is one place where both the what *and* the how matter. Merely addressing the how doesn’t suffice. If the piece of art is technically superb, but is a revisited concept, sadly, that doesn’t move me. It doesn’t contain originality or true creativity. I might patronize the artist from an encouragement standpoint, but that’s about it. For e.g. a nice photograph of a revisited concept just doesn’t cut it, unless it is presenting a different perspective, or a photograph that is technically brilliant, but lacks depth wouldn’t move me. At the same time, if the picture is loaded with meaning, but if the technicality is so poor it distracts from the meaning, that would be a pity as well.

In a nutshell, art is about the message conveyor, the message receiver and the moment itself. If it makes me connect dots and push the boundaries of my imagination, it is art to me.

The 8Cs to Love

I am a single woman, looking for love… Well, that was my line some years ago. As I meander through life and allow myself to feel, experience and meditate, I have understood what love is and learnt to recognize it, and it really has nothing to do with being single or being coupled, whether in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.  It really is a state of being that can be arrived at alone or together. Since I am already where I am and may one day be interested in a partnership with another as well, what my line really ought to be is — I am a woman, looking for a man who understands love the way I do and wants to walk alongside me as we continue our exploration of this beautiful journey… And of course it wouldn’t hurt if he is this, that and the other too ;).Setting aside what I am looking for or even whether I am looking for anything at all (which I shall elaborate on in another post), let me explain my formula for Love, which I’ve developed based on life experiences and relationships that have touched me in some way.  I am hoping this will be useful for the folks out there that are stumped by love in one way or another in that they either want to find love, want to understand it or are faced with quandaries about what love and partnership means to them, about whether they are in love at all, whether they are out of love and if so, how to find their way back and questions of that nature. I present 8Cs, 8 building blocks that eventually lead to Love, or 8 gates that need to be crossed on the path to Love.It all starts with knowing yourself first. Self-Awareness or Consciousness is really the precursor to success in anything in life. Leading a conscious life, with awareness over a period of Time leads to the ability to trust oneself or self-Confidence. A truly confident person is most likely an honest person. This in and of itself is good enough, but there is something to be said for synergy, sometimes one plus one could add up to three. So let’s add another person into the mix. The only way a synergy between two can be achieved is if there is a pathway between the two. Communication is the way one builds that pathway in this equation. Confidence in oneself coupled with honest Communication with the other over a period of time leads to trust or confidence in the other.

This practicing of trust over time (Consistency), results in a strong and established pathway or a very definite Connection between the two people. Now connection is the pragmatic part of a friendship or relationship and is a must to be able to function. But sometimes, connection alone may not be sufficient. There’s got to be some play in it. Connection is real and belongs to the realm of what IS. But in order to take what IS to what COULD BE, one needs a dose of imagination or spirit so that Connection can turn into Chemistry! This is the space where fun is had, whether lightness of spirit is expressed and where the world of possibilities begins to open up. When this Chemistry is founded on the building blocks of Consciousness, Confidence, Communication, Consistency and Connection, it is the right kind of Chemistry, the kind that sustains. For many people it suffices to reach this stage and many equate this to Love.

But I’ve concluded that I need more than just Chemistry to sustain a relationship. So my formula doesn’t quite end at Chemistry. Like I mentioned earlier, Chemistry is all about entering the world of possibilities. Once I enter the world of possibility, how do I progress further in a constructive manner? How do I move the needle? How do I grow? This is where Creativity comes in. Creativity to me is the ability to consciously connect the dots, bridge gaps and come up with new solutions to problems. Creativity is a way of being. (See my posts on The Science behind Creativity, Creativity Quotient). So how wonderful would it be if I can be creative in combination with someone that I share a chemistry with, and how wonderful would it be if this can fall into a sustainable rhythm over time and hence result in productivity. And productivity over time leads to…you guessed it – Contribution! And it is in this contribution or service that I define my existence.

So if there is someone that can walk alongside me (and vice versa) on the path of (combined) Contribution, something outside of and larger than our individual selves, then what exists between that person and I would cement into or flow into something undying and eternal, called Love.

The Science behind Creativity

Creativity – a science? Sounds counter intuitive, doesn’t it? For the longest time, I’d associated the word creativity with “right brained” activities such as singing, dancing, painting, decorating interiors and things you “do as a hobby”. I found that this was a rather common misconception about the concept. I’ve often heard people who crunch numbers on Wall street or those who effect corporate mergers and acquisitions and in general those who work in environments that engage the “left-brain”, say “Oh, but I’m not creative at all” alluding to their non-engagement with the right-brained world. Being someone that straddles both kinds of environments to some extent, I have spent some time thinking about this and have come to realize a few things about creativity — (a) creativity lies not in what you do but in how you do it, in other words, creativity is a way of doing and a way of being(b) creativity lies in what the do-ing means to the do-er and (c) when practiced with intention and awareness, even creativity or creating can be perfected into a science and hence, anyone can be creative!

Even though the framework for creativity can be broken down to an objective science, there is a subjective element to it, in that it is closely tied to one’s life purpose, one’s why. Executing on life purpose has a plethora of benefits such as good health, this feeling that life is one big vacation, the constant presence of awe and magic in your life (I will elaborate on this in another post). Everyone has his or her own unique strengths and gifts and invariably their life purpose is closely tied with those strengths and gifts.  Some people are lucky enough to have identified their life purpose very early. Yet some others may have a hunch, but not follow through with it due to life circumstances, prejudices and other artificial constraints. But for most of the rest of us, it (finding our true purpose) is a journey. The journey of creativity may help with that. Knowing the how, may sometimes help with the unfolding of the why.

Here’s how I’d break down the phases of the creative journey.

1. It all starts with slowing down and paying attention… to the thought, the inkling, the hunch, the desire that strikes you as you go about your life, work, play; observing the thought that enamors or invades your psyche, sometimes in a fleeting way and sometimes more persistent. No matter what the subject is, be it a concept for a painting, an architectural blue print or a proposal for a clinical trial, noticing or paying attention to the thoughts and hunches and daring to see just how far the rabbit hole goes, is really an “artistic” pursuit.  But the art or the ambiguity in it is nothing to shy away from. After all, yesterday’s art(imagination) is today’s science(theory) and today’s science is the basis for tomorrow’s engineering (reality). It all starts with paying attention…to the in-between.

2. Paying attention leads to awareness. The first step to the process of creativity is awareness — awareness of an interest, a passion, a gift even. If you already have awareness of your gift, good, if you don’t, follow the white rabbit. Follow the goose bumps, follow the tears, follow that which makes your heart leap and laugh, follow that which makes you daydream and if you follow it long enough, no matter what your head or your parents or “common sense” tells you, you will have uncovered something. Awareness over time, leads to the formation of a belief, a vision, an ability to see beyond (the box, the state of the art), an ability to imagine…to imagine a line or a connection between the dots.

3. No matter where you are in the awareness spectrum, i.e. whether you have an interest or itch or belief or whether you have knowledge of your strength, which is a step further in the awareness spectrum,  desire is not too far from it — a desire to do, a desire to know, a desire to be, a desire to grow…(and ultimately a desire to serve). If desire is not a word that suits your fancy, then call it an urge or a drive, but an internal ember is essentially the flavor of this next step.

4. If you do desire something bad enough, the Universe conspires to give it to you. I haven’t heard of a more repeated cliche, but I haven’t heard a truer statement either. If your desire is genuine i.e. it originates from deep within you and from a very pure place, you would have begun to manifest it already, in other words, things would have already started to arrange themselves in order to make the object of that desire accessible (not available) to you. Feel the desire, be aware of the desire.  The thoughts you put out to the Universe have a way of manifesting as an opportunity. You just have to learn to recognize the opportunity (remember the paying attention part?).

5. The only way to quench the desire is to take action on it. Once you recognize and embark on the opportunity, do not give up even if you encounter roadblocks, discouragements and naysayers, there really is no substitute for hard work which includes the fortitude to persevere on your vision. When the inspiration is genuine, the effort relentless and the practice consistent, the day is not far when the result will be apparent. The result could be anything from baking a themed cake for your kid’s birthday to building a nuclear reactor to landing a “dream” situation. The result is the connection between two (or more) dots that heretofore were just two (or more) disparate entities in your mind. It is important to not get distracted or confused by those that say “work smart, not hard”, “its in the genes”, “oh, but are you really happy?” etc. It took a lot of hard work (in some shape or form invisible or indiscernible to you) for the smartness to be in place or for the genes to be programmed that way (in “those others”) in the first place. So your belief, your desire and your practice are all you have and you will do yourself a big service by not giving up on any of that. Of course sometimes, the result, can also be a conclusion, a very firm one in your mind and that is also completely worth it.

6. With the validation of result, and continuing practice, somewhere along the road, the conscious practice becomes a part of the unconscious skill-set or repertoire. This way you find that you have moved the needle on your capacity or knowledge. And just like that, the box you were operating in, just grew in size or added another dimension to it!

Creativity is nothing but this process of theorizing and then converting theory into practice, converting belief into knowledge, converting imagination into innovation! And then of course, change is the only constant. Life changes, time moves forward, you change, the state of the art changes, just like day and night and the seasons, it is all a cycle. With the newly equipped knowledge, if you consciously go back to step 1 and pay attention, over time, new beliefs form and from there on, you know how it goes. :). Creativity is therefore this process of identifying the box and then gradually increasing the size of the box, until you reach a point where there is simply no box.

So if in the pursuit of being creative, you do not know where to start or you find yourself stuck at any point, having this framework (translations of the abstractions is in the mind of the reader) may help you understand where you are and help you figure out how to move forward on your journey. To be creative or not is therefore ultimately a matter of choice.