Writing about life as much as living it, it’s easy to get tangled in details or lost in possibilities: we live in strange times where almost anything’s possible yet the realities of life can also be more constricting than ever. Life can seem quite overwhelming with all its choices, paths we could walk, and differing opinions we’d encounter along the way. What can we make of that?
Coming at it from a few different angles, I’ve at times mused over life being comparable to art or thought (see Notes One): ways we perceive reality then craft our best response to it. Other times I’ve looked at things more systemically, asking about human agency and the impacts we have (Notes Two). But life cannot be reduced to simple recipes, appealing as that prospect might be.
I mean, as expressed in many of those posts, life is what we make of it. We’re essentially these agents or actors capable of ‘reading’ situations and responding to them as best we can; those actions then filtering into that world around us – creating, sustaining or reinforcing the various systems making up human society and our footprint on the planet.
We could look at that and say we’re not free, that we have no real choice in many of the factors that shape us; or we could conclude that we are, that we have freedom in our response to it all (Notes Three). Clearly a long-standing argument about the nature of our existence, and not one I really plan to delve into too much here.
My point though is that, for me, there’s a certain creativity to how we might live: that we could look, understand as best we can, then decide our response so as to bring something more to life. If we conceive of art as a response to life – a perception, interpretation, and an answer in some form or another – then potentially that could help shape our lives in new ways.
Rather than life being a mechanistic set of reactions, formulas and predictable trains of thought, we could approach it more creatively if we wanted to. Often we do, in a way, but it’s often recast as personal branding, image, and so forth – that commercial conversation sneaking into questions of human identity, expression and belonging.
I’m not talking about strategic gestures in how we craft a self out of the opportunities of modern life, but a genuine creative response to the challenges of existence. This sense that we might look at life, look at our resources, and decide what we want to make of it: where we want to make our mark, the themes or areas we personally wish to focus on, and how we might collaborate with others in doing so.
All of that seems to contribute to this, slightly imaginary, conversation around life and the agency of human existence. It’s one reason arts are arguably important for civilisation, and possibly one option for finding our way within the complexities of life.
Notes and References:
Note 1: What makes a good life?
Note 1: Thoughts on art & on life
Note 1: What is real?
Note 2: Right to question and decide
Note 2: What we bring to life
Note 3: Krishnamurti’s “Inward Revolution”
Note 3: The idea of self reliance