Everything Beautiful Is Absurd
Everything beautiful is absurd. Joy is one of those experiences which are not utilitarian. Love, peace, enlightenment - all are absurd, absurd in the sense that there is no meaning beyond themselves.
Their meaning is intrinsic.
I am reminded of Picasso. He was painting.... For almost two hours a man was standing behind him, watching; he could not figure out what the painting was, what the meaning was. Finally, he could not resist the temptation of asking Picasso.
Picasso looked at him and said, "This is something! I was really going to ask you, because you have been watching for two hours: perhaps you may have found the meaning. I was so much engaged in painting, so much into it - I was not there, only painting was happening. So I was hoping that perhaps you might be able to say to me what is the meaning of it all. As far as I am concerned, just painting it has been such a joyous experience - now no other reward is needed."
And one thing more he said. "You ask me what is the meaning of this painting, but you never ask these flowers what is their meaning. You never ask the sun, you never ask the moon, you never ask the whole sky full of stars what is the meaning. Why do you torture a poor painter? If the whole existence can remain without explaining what its meaning is, can't my small painting also remain without meaning? One thing I can say, it is tremendously beautiful."
The man said, "That's right, it is attractive, it is beautiful; but a thing without meaning is absurd."
Picasso said, "Exactly. It is not a commodity. In the marketplace everything has a meaning. It is a commodity, it is for some utilitarian purpose. But life is not just the marketplace, and it is good that it is not so. In life there are a few things which are utterly meaningless, yet absolutely fulfilling.
"This painting is absurd. It is so absurd that I cannot figure out how I am going to hang it in my house - which way is going to be up, which way is going to be down. I cannot figure it out. If you can help - because you have been observing for two hours... how should I hang it?"
The man said, "You are mad! You are painting it, and you don't know how to hang it?"
Picasso said, "I am mad, you are not - that's why I am asking you."
The man tried in all possible ways - there are only four possible ways to hang it. It was beautiful each way. The man said to Picasso, "You and your painting will drive me crazy! It was stupid of me to stand here and waste time. And this is as crazy as you are, because you can hang it any way and it looks right."
Picasso said, "That's the beauty of it!"
But beauty is absurd. Joy is absurd. Laughter is absurd. Collect as many absurdities in your life as possible. People collect strange things - postal stamps.... Collect absurdities; and the more absurdities you have, the richer you are. The world may think you are a little off the track, but that is their problem; you are enjoying it.
In small things you can find joy. But if you are looking for meaning, then even in the greatest experiences you will not find meaning. Meaning is a mind interpretation. And all that is beautiful, loving, ecstatic, is something of the heart.
And the head can never understand the heart: there is no communication line between the two.
It is the head that asks the meaning. It is the heart that asks for joyful experiences, for ecstatic experiences, but it never asks about their meaning.
Put your head aside and try to look at life from the heart. You will find it so glorious, so infinitely luminous that you will not be able to conceive how you have been missing, how much you have been missing. And that will explain why you are miserable, why you are in anxiety, why you are always sad.
It is as if somebody is trying to listen to music through the eyes - he will not hear anything. He will say, "I want to see the music." But you cannot see the music, you can only hear it. It is better if you close your eyes and open your ears.
Meaning is of the head, and if you go on searching through the head you will come to the same conclusions as Jean-Paul Sartre and other existentialist philosophers. They say, "Life is meaningless. The only thing worth doing is committing suicide, because why go on living a meaningless life?"
Life is certainly meaningless, but tremendously joyful, hilarious... a dance, a song, a beauty. But you will have to change your gears from the head to the heart.
Look at small children - how excited they are in your bored world! You are sitting there completely bored, and your child is so excited. And you think you are right and the child is a fool. He does not know anything about life, that's why he is so excited about any absurd thing - butterflies, flowers, colored stones, seashells, anything! And you can't see any meaning in them. But the child is right, you are wrong.
The criterion is boredom: who is bored? Whoever is bored is wrong. Whoever is dancing, singing, having a good belly laughter is right! But one has to change. It is not a very big change - your heart and your head are not very far away, maybe a few inches. And the heart is closer to you, closer to your being; the head is the farthest from your being. But the whole programming going on is to avoid the heart and join your being directly with the head. That's what your schools, colleges, universities, are doing.
The heart has no function in your education - naturally, your life is a misery. A true education will be basically the education of the heart. It will make you more innocent, more childlike, more excited and ecstatic about small things. Then each moment becomes luminous.
And what are you going to do with meaning? Even if there is meaning in something, what are you going to do with meaning? The real thing is experiencing.
So it is perfectly good to accept joy, laughter, without any reason - the way you accept your health.
Are you ever worried when you are healthy, wondering: Why am I healthy? Do you go to the doctor, tremendously concerned and worried, and say, "Doctor, for seven days I have been healthy; something seems to be wrong"? No, health is natural; it need not be diagnosed, analyzed, it has to be lived.
Excerpted From the Book: From Bondage to Freedom