The Art of Living
What does success mean, what is a successful artist?
How do we know we’re being successful? Not just in our careers, but as a person?
What does success even look like?
These questions have given me a lot of food for thought lately, and the words derived from my answers have got stuck in my throat for several months now. I believe the world is fundamentally not ready for what I’m about to say, despite the fact that other – more versed, respected thinkers – have expressed similar viewpoints already. Still, regardless of the creditable foregoers, heralds of a progressive new era, every time I tackle this piece of writing I get a tinted aftertaste of anxiety, as if I could foresee the judgment and rejection a radical new way of thinking stirs in those who aren’t prepared to hear it.
Well, I have finally had the courage to give my perspective the bounty of freedom…
“The Right To Be Lazy” – Paul Lafargue, 1883
The way I see success is that, like all things genuine, it’s only true if it comes as a by-product of what truly moves us.
Success means to me that my work and effort are only motivated by passion. Passion for a profession, for the creativity that moves through me in ways I still find hard to grasp.
Looking for recognition, letting oneself be driven by the hunt of it, by the rush that it provides, is playing the game of the mind.
The mind gets hooked to that, it gets hooked to the conditioning of the world, a world that tells us that we have to be successful, the most successful of all, and work work work hard to get there – better yet: use the by-pass of having ‘the right friends in the right places’ – in order to be appreciated, recognized, to be of value. And it doesn’t matter which of these two avenues one takes. The former might reveal itself more fulfilling, but they’re both ultimately devoid of meaning. It’s a game that will leave us inevitably empty.
“Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.”
― Mark Twain
Peace that comes from the ability of being able to do as I please. And I’m not fully complete, but I’m very happy I’m more than halfway through.
My kind of success is to live the way I want.
It sounds obvious and cliché, but truly, how many people can stand behind such a statement in all honesty?
I know only a few.
To live the way one wants is to make a deliberate movement towards radical freedom.
It’s to be able to choose one’s home base regardless of convenience, regardless of market rules and societal agreements, regardless even of your love partners and family. It’s to surround yourself only with whom you want. To spend your days doing only what you want, when you want.
I can proudly say that, 95% of the time, I do what I want. Be that making art, singing, dancing, potholing, or simply resting, and from there, emerges my peace.
Advocating for a routine that is made of a lot more than studio time is paramount for my creativity to flourish, but most importantly, for my creation process to be put at the service of a life worth living.
Which, let me remind you, it’s what this whole thing called Life is about.
My studio in the mountains
Then, why does it take central stage?
As humans, we’ve evolved enough to claim a new reality. It is my firm conviction that we’ve entered an era where our efforts must be directed towards freedom and personal fulfillment.
Long gone are the days where productivity was used as validation, as a way to measure the quality and potential of an individual, and in this case, an artist.
Precisely, as an artist, it’s my duty to leave the hamster wheel.
Embodying the very essence of freedom should be an artist’s most essential task.
In my experience, digging down to the roots of language often helps with perspective. Etymology has a way to expose the truth of concepts, as if one could suddenly erase the patina of time, centuries of cultural distortion and appropriation.
As I’ve found out, in old English, the meaning of the word “work” was to exert creative power, to be a creator, to manipulate into a desired state or form.
It’s seems it’s time for us to begin to liberate ourselves from the modern concept of work, even if our work is our passion. And the number one step is to abandon our very narrow version of success, which, sadly, right now, is nothing but a long list of achievements in a resume, a given amount of likes on social media, or a set of figures in a bank statement.
Unfortunately, the vast majority won’t care whether you have actually something of value to give to the world, because value is mainly measured in terms of recognition and external validation.
“Embodying the very essence of freedom should be an artist’s most essential task.”
― Paula del Rivero
I am valuable regardless of anything. Regardless of how much I create, how well I follow the trends, how cool I look, who I know, or where I exhibit my work.
And so do you. Regardless of your accolades and degrees and job titles.
Our ambition can only be genuine if it’s rooted in the belief that we are enough, that we do enough, and that we don’t need to work more, or better, or hustle, or be more consistent to prove who we are and what our value is in this world.
And that includes the right to be lazy. The right to not work at all.
Because, ultimately, there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, to prove.
Rooting for privilege
Don´t get me wrong, I’m well aware this perspective can only be voiced from a position of privilege, and that’s exactly why I’m entitled to speak like this.
Most people will link this privilege to money. Well, if you believe our current development has been able to truly buy us genuine joy and freedom, we’re not on the same wavelength… If people are devastated by hunger, disease, poverty, abuse, enslavement, and other forms of oppression (the list goes on but I’ll stop right here), it’s only thanks to our worship of patriarchal capitalism. And you, yes you, who are reading this from the privilege of your smartphone, laptop, or tablet: if you’re still counting on this model to grant you your deserved fabulous life, just keep waiting. Meanwhile, carry on greasing the wheels, adapting your existence to the standards of the system, until your true self disappears. A suitable ghost will emerge instead, one who can keep up with the pace, and stand the proverbial whip. At some point, it’ll stop hurting, and you’ll no longer know which one is you.
I hope, by now, you’ve realized I’m talking about a different form of elitism. A whole different kind of privilege.
See, the myth of El Dorado is still very much alive in our society. It’s that rare gem everyone appears to be chasing in the modern western world, the ultimate reward that seems to slip through our fingers like liquid gold. And to our eyes, everyone “on the other side of the fence” (all puns intended) is just missing out on its delights. No wonder why it looks so unattainable. No wonder why we kill ourselves and each other to claim just a tiny piece of the Empire. Most people fall for the illusion, and it’s a story of eternal deceit. In a world focused on power, hustle, hard work, achievement, wealth, success, and other honorable distractions, surrendering to the art of living remains the raw honey this gorgeous life keeps only for the brave of heart.
The Art of Living
My routine is made of long walks in the woods, morning cuddles with my lover, much needed swims in the ocean, and long conversations with my dog.
Sometimes, I indulge in the company of a curious horse, in how the light filters itself through the grass fields. And, if I’m lucky, I get to gather with friends on a sunny day, under a tree, in a quiet garden, looking at the mountains, marveled at the beauty of it all.
When I let this all happen without giving voice to the guilt, to the worry, without leaning to the pressure to produce, I know I’m being successful. I’m surrendering to the Art of living.
And at some point, inevitably, the urge kicks in.
An inescapable surge brewed in the necessity to surrender to something I don’t even dare to call work.
Then and only then, do I yield to the pressure and give in to this drive. And it gets hold of me, and it brings me the necessary blend of focus and magic.
But see, it has to take over me in order to be meaningful, in order to be correct. Otherwise I battle. I fight, I push. I get exhausted. I fall right back in the trap.
When I’m not on top of it, when I’m not following the prescription, the label, something moves through me, in the most beautiful ways, and my only job is to let it pass through me, to let it do, to let it have its way.
Until it fades away, just as naturally as it came… Then I keep surrendering to the Art of living while I wait for it to wake up again.
And I know it will.
And I trust that.
And it’s not any sort of genius. Are these the infamous muses? Is this passion? Is it Art? I don’t know. It’s not mine, so it’s Life I guess. Life that wants to live through me, laugh through me, rest through me.
I just let it.
I have no choice, really.
“If I paint or if I sleep, it doesn’t matter; I only do it because I have no other choice. I truly don’t, no matter how much my mind wants to argue with the idea of choicelessness.”
― Paula del Rivero
I do my best to let Life possess me, to let it drive me where it wants to, and I take the passenger’s seat.
That, my friends, that is my kind of success.
Sharing my art with the world helps me spread the feeling. The message, if you will.
I get to show you not just the work, but the vision behind it. The privilege I’ve given myself to follow my own version of success – to indulge in the art of living – is right there in front of you, through the work. And if that, even for just one second, helps you realize, oh I’m doing as I please too! Great! Let’s celebrate together. And if your answer is different, change it! Change it.
See, I could write about what’s behind a piece for ages, but that’s another game of the mind. Ultimately, what you see is the privilege I’ve given myself to do as Life pleases.
What’s your success story?
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