Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Lost Art of Living -- Writer's Poke #383



“Measuring Happiness” is one of my more recent Writer’s Pokes. According to the blogger stats, it’s generating more hits than any other post within the last few weeks. In fact, it’s generating about ten times the amount of interest of any other post. The key word in the title is “Happiness,” and apparently people are searching for it.


Living is an art, or should be. For a long time I had Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” up on my office wall. This is a fairly iconic painting that probably most people know, but why is it so popular? Is it true that most of us live lives of quiet desperation? Am I, and others, attracted to this painting simply because the central focal character is no longer staying quiet?

What makes life so difficult? Many of us may think we’re “connected,” but more and more we spend our lives isolated from real human contact. Even saying “hello” to someone passing by in the hallway may seem pointless, especially if “hello” is the only thing you ever say to that person. Why even bother to go through the social niceties of a greeting? Just walk on by and go about your business.

Kurt Vonnegut suggested that people need to create extended families for themselves, and how these extended families are created doesn’t really matter. We could all pull numbers out of a hat, and all the people that pull twos, for example, could be the Two Clan. People, Vonnegut thought, don’t do well alone. Alone, we tend to break. Go off. Get loopy.

And yet many of us spend the majority of our time alone. We may even think we like being alone. After all, dealing with people is tiring. They don’t always understand. They’re as preoccupied about their own lives as we are with our own.

But finding a group of people to share experiences… what’s better than that? Robert Pirsig observed that reading a classic, for example, is a lost art. People used to read a classic a sentence at a time, stopping at the end of each sentence to discuss it with somebody else. I don’t know if that’s “literally” true or not, but I do know that the power and the joy of discussing a book or a movie with someone can far surpass the act of reading the book or watching the movie in solitude. I also know that as much as I like to write, I find it far more satisfying to discuss my pokes with others than to write them late at night, alone.

Through discussion, the potential for connection; through connection, the potential for art. Without connection, no art, and really, no life.

How “connected” are you to the art of living?

“I do not seek. I find.” – Pablo Picasso

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