Lately, I’ve been pondering the difference it makes to think of living your life as a creative act of art. Writing my novel has been good for my happiness simply as a creative endeavor that forces me to be fully in the present during the times I’m writing. I’ve discovered that a side effect of those times of making art is that it produces an afterglow of happiness in your brain. So I started thinking, what would it be like to think of all the daily routines of life as a canvas for creative art? What would it look like if I could write my own life the way I write a novel?
The discipline of mindfulness – taking periods of time when I intentionally focus all my attention on some aspect of the present moment – helps me think of it in more concrete terms. When I’m getting dressed in the morning, sometimes I’ll enter a moment of mindfulness, when I close my eyes and focus on my fingers’ instinctive motions for buttoning up a shirt. There’s really a beauty in the intricate dance of sensory input triggering certain precisely memorized muscle motions that result in the end product of a buttoned shirt. When you pause and think about all the artful balancing and controlled movements involved in walking on two legs, it’s quite an artistic accomplishment. Just try making a bipedal robot that’s capable human locomotion and you’ll realize how artful it all is.
We had a midwinter music party a few weeks ago, where some of us wore gloves with flashing lights in the fingers and danced, while others took pictures. The resulting pictures (one of them is presently my profile pic) prove to my mind that if you can freeze and really study human motions, it’s all beautiful art. If you could put those flashing lights on your extremities and have someone film you for a shift of work, then speed it up and play the dance of swirling colors that your limbs would leave behind, I think the art would be mesmerizing.
So I tried an experiment. I decided that at certain times of my shift I would take moments of mindfulness where I think of the job I’m doing, with all its rehearsed, choreographed patterns of muscle movements that my years on the job have taught me, as an opportunity to actively create that moment as a moving, present-tense work of art. The amazing thing is, it seems to have the same happiness-creating effect in my brain as it does when I write my novel. Creating my own life as art. It’s really possible. Not to mention, as I focus on the beautiful dance of muscle movements, it’s much easier to notice when my posture, body mechanics, etc. are healthy and strengthening to my musculoskeletal system, and when they’re putting undue stress on it. Making a “dance” of your work, and extending the principle to all parts of your life, can be a healthy activity.
A couple years ago I went through a time when I was trying to get myself all sorted out (the work still progresses slowly 😉 ), and I discovered that the habit of listening to music for a couple of hours before my shift reliably increases my happiness during it. I think the result is due in part to the fact that, if I’m carrying my own rhythms with me through the shift, I automatically move my body in a healthier/more artistic way. Some people hate earworms, but I intentionally breed them and root around in my memory to dig them up when they’re absent. If I don’t have tunes running through my mind it’s that much harder to keep my patterns from getting sloppy, which creates negative energy in my brain.
So I’ve decided to pursue the creation of my daily life as an act of art. I want to be my own novelist, dance my own dance, make my own music. But I’m already realizing that it’s even more amazing to watch your own kids learn the art of living life. They learn how to vibrate with the energy patterns of others, they learn the dance of life, they learn that they can create their own part of the dance any way they want – but they also learn that the more they harmonize their energy patterns with others, the more beautiful the dance becomes.
Maybe all life is art and all art is beautiful. Maybe the trick is just painting your own life with all your heart. Maybe, whether you realize it or not, you already are creating your own life art just by being your uniquely beautiful human self. I think human brains, as they unfold in the patterns of living, are still the most beautiful thing I’ve come across in a lifetime of exploring our amazing universe. There are innumerable human life stories, some comedies and some tragedies (although, really, we’re all probably some combination of the two) – but honestly, wouldn’t the universe be a poorer place if it lost even one of those unique unfolding living-art patterns of the human brain as it uses the canvas of its body to dance out a work of living art that we call life? And if you think of it that way and realize that you have the choice to shape and refine your own beautiful pattern in ways limited largely by nothing but your own creativity, how awesome is that? Play your part the best you can; you’re creating a work of incredible beauty.
And all that energy flowing through your body in artistic patterns during your decades on earth constantly helps shape and affect the energy patterns of everyone around you, contributing to a worldwide symphony, the never-ending song of art that is the human race dancing its part in the dancing universe. Maybe the signature of your soul is the unique pattern of energy that flows through your neurons as you live your part of the human dance – and maybe that fingerprint of energy can spread and affect other patterns of other people living their lives, so in that way the fingerprint of your soul is echoed and repeated in endless variations down through the centuries. If so, how important it is to leave good vibrations!
I’m here waiting for a proof copy of my novel to arrive so I can finalize it and decide what to do from there. But it strikes me that this lesson I’m mulling over is precisely the lesson that the book’s main character, Jesse, finally learns on the tower top, when Meribel enigmatically encourages him to “follow the patterns”. So it occurs to me that my subconscious must have known the lesson my left brain conscious needed to learn, and so it used the art of story-writing to teach me that lesson through Jesse’s own story. The act of writing the novel gave my subconscious a canvas for illustrating the importance of living my life as art by teaching the story’s protagonist something similar. And maybe the further lesson Jesse had to learn through that experience, of the importance of friends and family, is also a subconscious prod to myself. Maybe writing your life like a novel has to involve reaching out to friends and family, sharing your energy and letting their energy strengthen you and teach you to dance this dance of life in a better and more harmonious way. To make the best art, we all need each other.
Perhaps another part of the goal is being able to trust yourself to dance every part of your life routine well because you’ve trained your subconscious mind to respond with grace and music to every new situation life throws at you. Maybe that’s when you can really enjoy the thrilling ride of life. But it only happens if you get lost in the art of living your life the way any artist gets lost in their work. The way a musician gets lost in his song. The way a painter gets lost in her painting. I think that’s the way your subconscious automatically sees it – that you’re really writing, painting, singing, dancing, CREATING your life as you go along. Maybe the trick is to make yourself believe the same thing with your conscious mind. It would be like writing and starring in a movie only better because the movie is actually real, it’s your real life and you’re really writing its story into the energy patterns of the universe. Maybe art is about blurring those lines between fantasy and reality to show the beauty in the mundane. (And maybe that’s why there’s an undeniable kinship between the artist and the madman! But I digress…)
In a small way, writing this novel taught me how to write my own life as a novel, which allows my creativity, with its healthful benefits, to spill over into real life. If I find myself in any real predicament, just like Jesse I can close my eyes, follow the patterns, and write for myself a crazy solution to the predicament. Then I can let that art flow through me into the daily decisions I make, including decisions to reach out and contact people and intentionally harmonize better with them. I have to flow with random events and tragedies, of course, but maybe, like the novelist inside me, I can always write myself a way forward, no matter how deep the hole I might find myself in this time…
On a final note, I’ll probably send copies to a few friends and family when I’ve done a last edit through my proof copy and have a final version. My main motivation will just be sharing the creative endeavors I’ve been occupied with of late, but I’ll also retain a general hope that it may end up providing me with a little feedback. (I’m not expecting anything or attaching strings, I’m just saying I’d welcome honest feedback if anyone got the urge to give any.) If anyone wants a copy, just send me a message and I’d be glad to send one your way.