Every quarter or so, just to keep my sanity, I get away for a night or two, driving down from Silicon Valley to the gorgeous, forested seaside resort of Carmel, a hundred miles away. After I have checked into one of the inns, I make a point of immediately touring a few of the nearly 100 art galleries covering this jewel-like town.
After several exhibits, I begin to get “high” and experience the aesthetic response. I am totally present with the various paintings, photographs and sculptures, entering a whole other world of sheer beauty.
Those canvases become three-dimensional, and pull me in. Whether I view abstract, impressionistic or realistic paintings, I walk out born again, seeing the lovely town, itself, as a sanctuary, a temple of art.
Sometimes I think I am closer to the truth there than when I am hard at work in the Valley to make a living. The high builds up through the long weekend.
When I return to work the following week, the high stays with me for quite a few days afterward. I begin to see how life IS art, and art IS life.
When we look at Japan, we see most prominent the profound impact of Zen Buddhism, which managed to crystalize the supreme realization of enlightenment in the appreciation of concrete forms and objects, which begin to assume a spiritual dimension.
In Zen, all there is is HERE and NOW. There is no difference between God, a lotus blossom and me. They are all the same.
When you enter the now moment, you stop comparing and contrasting. You play in the moment and you flow with it.
You stop judging and evaluating. You just see and hear, taste and smell. You see this reflected in Japan’s many arts of fencing, wrestling, flower arranging, painting, poetry, rock gardens and theatre.
The tea ceremony is held in an actual garden with crude, but strangely refined, pottery serving delicious tea, such as jasmine or oolong. Geisha girls are dressed up in full costume. Everything is done just so. You take your time to relish every single instant.
Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. Just be.
We see that the Japanese place ultimate value on art, considering it almost spiritual. Children from kindergarten through 12th grade are actually required to take art and music classes. They don’t consider this Mickey Mouse or a waste of time. For the Japanese, education is a process of refinement of boys and girls into proper ladies and gentlemen.
If we step back from our hectic lives and see the grand pattern, we discover that something and someone is living us, as much as we are living our own lives.
We are being played out. We are in a play, and are meant to play. We may see the play as work and struggle and fail to discern that our lives are truly a celebration of the divine.
Nothing is truly by accident. There is a hidden meaning and purpose to everything.
To discover this, we must stop time and enter into the eternal now moment. Every season of our lives, every stage of our lives has its own beauty. We are part of a grand tapestry that is majestic. Every stitch that comprises our lives is necessary and appropriate to produce the grand result.
When we are conscious that we, as our individualized selves, are here on stage, or on the screen (depending upon which metaphor you prefer), we can have a lot more fun. We are free to be outrageous in a loving way. Our unique contribution is vital to the end result.
Related topic: How Self-Acceptance Leads to Inner Peace
Years ago, Paul Schrader directed Mishima, a stunning film about Japan’s most celebrated novelist, a man who lived his own life as a work of art. All the scenes and settings were exquisite, as if we walked into a living painting.
Mishima insisted on being a samurai again. He revered the kamikaze pilots in World War II who gave up everything for their emperor. In their last few moments, they were intensely, totally alive.
Closer to home, Oliver Stone has just released a docudrama on the controversial whistle blower, Edward Snowden, who revealed to the entire world how the U.S. intelligence apparatus was doing massive surveillance, not on supposed enemies, but on the American public, itself.
This movie may be Stone’s greatest work, accomplished by a mature artist who always has something vital to say. In this feature, Oliver refrained from going over the top, avoiding gratuitous violence. Yet he kept up a relentless pace. Even though many of us may know the outline of the story, we experience it with transformed eyes through Stone.
We can play actual videos of Edward Snowden on YouTube, surprised at how attractive and likable he appears to be. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodly, although in physical appearance quite different than Edward and his girlfriend, soon BECOME them both, through the power of exceptional direction and acting. Oliver and his leads flew to Moscow to be with Edward Snowden and capture his unique way of being.
After viewing this movie even once, we will never see the recent controversy in quite the same light. The institutions, the high technology and the characters tell a powerful story of freedom when people in critical positions decide to go all-out for integrity.
The screen literally lights up toward the end as Edward walks to his freedom of conscience, even though this has, for him, meant exile in Russia.
You may not have the budget to actually fly to Japan, or be in a creative position within the film industry. Nevertheless, you can do something today, and every day, to relish beauty in your life.
Here are a few simple ideas to get you started:
Remember, “A thing of Beauty is a joy forever.” (John Keats)