Sometimes we are going to fall short. Sometimes we are going to be disappointed, even when we try our best. This is natural. No one hits a home run every time.
When things go wrong or not as expected, we can make one of two choices. We can either become bitter, or we can hold our heads high and move forward, despite it all. The latter choice is the better one but it is up to us whether we choose it. It is up to us whether we make something beautiful with what we have, because we always can.
This week I struggled with the newsletter. Last week, I mentioned there would be a Part II to The Meaning of Life. Unfortunately, the words I wrote do not feel right. I feel like there is something missing in them.
For all of my writings, I have a personal litmus test to determine if it is ready, meaning there is a sign I look for. The test is whether my eyes get watery while writing it. If my eyes do not get teary at some point, then the letter is not ready. This means I have not put enough of myself into it. This means it is not art (not yet).
Art is not made by having the best equipment or by being an expert. Art is made by putting your heart into something. It is made by getting someone to feel something they never would have otherwise (this person can even be you).
In a sense, we are all artists. We make art every day because life is a dance. We make art in the way we move and in the way we sing. The beautiful marks we leave on each other are also art.
Art is lost when we go through the motions. We become more machine-like, rather than artists, when we turn on autopilot. An artist may have a sense of direction, but they never know exactly where they are headed (this is what makes their art human).
Number 5 by Jackson Pollock.
One of my favorite artists is Jackson Pollock. He is famous for his drip-style paintings where he would throw paint on the canvas in a ‘seemingly’ random way. However, the way he dripped paint was not entirely random. His style of drip painting was called “semi-automatism,” meaning he knew where the paint was going but he also did not. At first, he would direct his hand in a certain direction and then he would let go — he would let his hand (and the paint) flow wherever it may.
Pollock’s style of painting is similar to the human experience, which is one of the reasons so many people are drawn to it. For example, when we talk to someone, do we know every word we are going to say during the conversation? Or do we just know how we are going to start it? Often, the best conversations lead to places we never expected.
We are constantly standing at the crossroad between what we know and what we are about to know. To produce good work and to live a good life, we must remember this. We must keep ourselves open to the serendipity of life. There is nothing wrong with having a plan or goal but we cannot let these things control the direction of our story.
We are destined for wonderful places — places we cannot imagine yet — but we have to keep our eyes open for signs on the road. A beautiful journey is never a straight shot. A beautiful journey will take us through winding roads, and across mountains and snow. It will take us, if we are willing, to places we never knew we wanted to go. However, a beautiful journey is never guaranteed, it is merely an opportunity. It is an opportunity we can either seize or ignore.
While writing this week’s newsletter, I felt like something was wrong. The original letter I wrote seemed forced and it did not feel like art to me. In light of these feelings, I started over this morning and wrote this letter instead. When I write, I want my words to be real. I want them to embody life.
I remember sitting in my chair this week and looking out the window in my office. I saw the leaves on the trees outside waving back and forth, almost like they knew where they were going. I heard the birds chirping as they woke up, almost like they knew what song they were going to sing. I saw people laughing and smiling as they went on their morning walks, almost like they knew the paths they were going to take. However, I am not sure those leaves, those birds or those people knew where they were headed. Maybe they had a sense of direction but I like to imagine their destination was a surprise. I like to imagine they went somewhere they did not expect. This is what a real life means I think. It is about standing at the intersection between what we think our lives will be and the eternal unknown.
I am not sure what the meaning of your life is. The meaning of life is different for all of us and it may change throughout our lives. However, wherever we stand in life, there is a similarity in all of our stories — the point of us being here is to realize the opportunities knocking at our door. It is about making the world more beautiful, both for ourselves and for others, in whatever way we can. It is about taking responsibility for the direction of our lives while also remaining open to that direction changing. It is about staying human every step along the way. It is about waking up every morning and deciding to make art, in spite of everything.
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