What judge of art could ever create art?
What judge of life could ever create life?
Life as Art
Despite the limitations society might press on us, life is limitless, creative, and our deepest urge is to express ourselves in our own way and be heard. Our deepest desire is to think of, conceive of, and act out, our lives as a work of art.
This natural desire is central to the question of leading a fulfilling life, and central to our satisfaction in life. And it is so very fragile, that if we lose sight of our sense of life as creativity, our own invention and expression of what is important, then we are prone to losing all sense of the value of life itself.
We become zombie-like, or worse, resentful of all others who are busy on their own personal arc to creating themselves. We become dominated by fear and seek comfort in conformity, secretly wishing all others to be just like us. We become locked into what we judge to be a defensible way of life.
Why are we at times so attracted to identity and conformity? Safety, understanding, order?
Identity, the ability to identify with something, feels like standing on firm ground. Chaos, unpredictable change, feels scary, like a rollercoaster going off the rails. But the world need not be viewed as one or the other.
We can learn to experience diversity and change as the very thing that is certain and dependable. And if we make that shift in perspective, then all of a sudden a lot of things fall into place, and the world feels exciting again
To find fulfillment, the ultimate goal cannot be to study or discover or glean or judge.
Each of us must invent and live our own creative philosophy, an experimental philosophy of life.
And we must act life out accordingly, with full knowledge that we are free to move the goalposts at any point along the way. And probably will.
Life as a work of art continuously evolves and is free from thoughts handed down by others, and rules we create for ourselves.
To paint something original we must first wipe the canvas clean of cliché. And then stare, not into the abyss, but instead into an immanent plane of radical freedom. A freedom that envelops us.
Each brushstroke then becomes a purely original act. When we draw in closer and gaze into the painting point blank, we see no grand design. We see only beautifully laid brushstrokes melding into one another, swirling around, and leading out into the open.
To live a life of improvisation, a life that is original, a life that is expansive, is to live radical freedom and vitality.
Life is Open
In order to be this, we must turn away from the specialists, the experts, the conformists, the proponents of top-down knowledge, and go to where there is only pure thought, personal creative thought, free thought.
For out here in the open, there are no rules of life. Fulfillment in life is found in the affirmation of the open, and unfinished.
Live and let live is a light way to travel, but it is sometimes a hard way to be. And there will be no shortage of those who will point fingers and condemn you for being so light, so flippant, so free. How dare you? How irresponsible of you to be so carefree and happy?
I am inspired to write in the hope that it will aid others who may be stuck, struggling with change, or want to approach change in a more proactive and satisfying way. Something personal you can apply in your own way and use in your own life.
Today, we face more change than any generation that has preceded us. And there is an ongoing flow of books published that instruct us on how to deal with change. Some propose we embrace it, others that we be resilient through its onslaught.
In my writings I will argue for change, more change, change as central. In doing so, I will attempt to delineate what I mean by this change and a changing world. And outline how, in a living philosophy of becoming, change is not the enemy but is life itself.
Notwithstanding the immense change and the reaction to change we face today—in arenas such as the advance of technology, social and economic relations, political divides and conflict, over-population and environmental crises — creative philosophy can help.
Encountering change is in some ways the intuitive art of life. Life is that which embraces the novel, and transforms. Most of us see some evolution in our lives as inherent and good. But how should we react when the universe confronts us with unexpected and sometimes devastating change? Where is the art in that?
How should we approach uncertainty? How can we get a grip when burdened by it? How can we lead an experimental life without limitation in a world that seemingly and continually presents us with limitations, with scarcity? In the writings that follow, I hope to provide a framework for understanding a new perspective on all change, good and bad.
A Philosophy of Difference
When it all crumbles, our hopes and dreams, and plans, we grieve. Then, we look for new ways to think and feel about things. And for the most part, we find them, because:
We are wired to evolve, to connect with infinite change.
At some point in our lives, we all require a new understanding of our lives. But what if that understanding was open-ended, provided no definitive answers, could never offer detailed solutions?
What if it opened up a new world of embracing the problematic? A philosophy of difference does just that: it offers us a fresh way of staying open and embracing the new. Not a therapeutic fad that offers worn out, ineffective and hollow solutions. Because life thrives in the problematic, the exploration and the adventure within us.
A philosophy of difference is not a prescription but is instead something unfinished. A few signposts along the way for the journey without a path.
There is a way to live a freer life, lighter and more vibrant, filled with vitality and creativity, unshackled from old ideas of the past and future. An empowering and flourishing life reconstructed on a grand scale under a fresh and original understanding of time itself.
For there is only change and possibility in the universe, life as experiment. Detachment from identity and affirmation of difference reveals a future free to be explored, released from the weight of the past.
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Excerpt from my forthcoming book, Becoming: A Life of Pure Difference (Gilles Deleuze and the Philosophy of the New) Copyright © 2021 by Tomas Byrne.