ART, BEAUTY AND CREATION
By J Krishnamurti
From the Book: Education and the Significance of Life
MOST of us are constantly trying to escape from ourselves; and as art offers a respectable and easy means of doing so, it plays a significant part in the lives of many people. In the desire for self-forgetfulness, some turn to art, others take to drink, while still others follow mysterious and fanciful religious doctrines.
When, consciously or unconsciously, we use something to escape from ourselves, we become addicted to it. To depend on a person, a poem, or what you will, as a means of release from our worries and anxieties, though momentarily enriching, only creates further conflict and contradiction in our lives.
The state of creativeness cannot exist where there is conflict, and the right kind of education should therefore help the individual to face his problems and not glorify the ways of escape; it should help him to understand and eliminate conflict, for only then can this state of creativeness come into being.
Art divorced from life has no great significance. When art is separate from our daily living, when there is a gap between our instinctual life and our efforts on canvas, in marble or in words, then art becomes merely an expression of our superficial desire to escape from the reality of what is. To bridge this gap is very arduous, especially for those who are gifted and technically proficient; but it is only when the gap is bridged that our life becomes integrated and art an integral expression of ourselves.
Mind has the power to create illusion; and without understanding its ways, to seek inspiration is to invite self-deception. Inspiration comes when we are open to it, not when we are courting it. To attempt to gain inspiration through any form of stimulation leads to all kinds of delusions.
Unless one is aware of the significance of existence, capacity or gift gives emphasis and importance to the self and its cravings. It tends to make the individual self-centred and separative; he feels himself to be an entity apart, a superior being, all of which breeds many evils and causes ceaseless strife and pain. The self is a bundle of many entities, each opposed to the others. It is a battlefield of conflicting desires, a centre of constant struggle between the "mine" and the "not-mine"; and as long as we give importance to the self, to the "me" and the "mine," there will be increasing conflict within ourselves and in the world.
A true artist is beyond the vanity of the self and its ambitions. To have the power of brilliant expression, and yet be caught in worldly ways, makes for a life of contradiction and strife. Praise and adulation, when taken to heart, inflate the ego and destroy receptivity, and the worship of success in any field is obviously detrimental to intelligence.
Any tendency or talent which makes for isolation, any form of self-identification, however stimulating, distorts the expression of sensitivity and brings about insensitivity. Sensitivity is dulled when gift becomes personal, when importance is given to the "me" and the "mine" - I paint, I write, I invent. It is only when we are aware of every movement of our own thought and feeling in our relationship with people, with things and with nature, that the mind is open, pliable, not tethered to self-protective demands and pursuits; and only then is there sensitivity to the ugly and the beautiful, unhindered by the self.
Sensitivity to beauty and to ugliness does not come about through attachment; it comes with love, when there are no self-created conflicts. When we are inwardly poor, we indulge in every form of outward show, in wealth, power and possessions. When our hearts are empty, we collect things. If we can afford it, we surround ourselves with objects that we consider beautiful, and because we attach enormous importance to them, we are responsible for much misery and destruction.
The acquisitive spirit is not the love of beauty; it arises from the desire for security, and to be secure is to be insensitive. The desire to be secure creates fear; it sets going a process of isolation which builds walls of resistance around us, and these walls prevent all sensitivity. However beautiful an object may be, it soon loses its appeal for us; we dull. Beauty is still there, but we are no longer open to it, and it has been absorbed into our monotonous daily existence.
Since our hearts are withered and we have forgotten how to be kindly, how to look at the stars, at the trees, at the reflections on the water, we require the stimulation of pictures and jewels, of books and endless amusements. We are constantly seeking new excitements, new thrills, we crave an ever-increasing variety of sensations. Art is this craving and its satisfaction that make the mind and heart weary and dull. As long as we are seeking sensation, the things that we call beautiful and ugly have but a very superficial significance. There is lasting joy only when we are capable of approaching all things afresh - which is not possible as long as we are bound up in our desires. The craving for sensation and gratification prevents the experiencing of that which is always new. Sensations can be bought, but not the love of beauty.
When we are aware of the emptiness of our own minds and hearts without running away from it into any kind of stimulation or sensation, when we are completely open, highly sensitive, only then can there be creation, only then shall we find creative joy. To cultivate the outer without understanding the inner must inevitably build up those values which lead men to destruction and sorrow.
Learning a technique may provide us with a job, but it will not make us creative; whereas, if there is joy, if there is the creative fire, it will find a way to express itself, one need not study a method of expression. When one really wants to write a poem, one writes it, and if one has the technique, so much the better; but why stress what is but a means of communication if one has nothing to say? When there is love in our hearts, we do not search for a way of putting words together.
Great artists and great writers may be creators, but we are not, we are mere spectators. We read vast numbers of books, listen to magnificent music, look at works of art, but we never directly experience the sublime; our experience is always through a poem, through a picture, through the personality of a saint. To sing we must have a song in our hearts; but having lost the song, we pursue the singer. Without an intermediary we feel lost; but we must be lost before we can discover anything. Discovery is the beginning of creativeness; and without creativeness, do what we may, there can be no peace or happiness for man.
We think that we shall be able to live happily, creatively, if we learn a method, a technique, a style; but creative happiness comes only when there is inward richness, it can never be attained through any system. Self-improvement, which is another way of assuring the security of the "me" and the "mine," is not creative, nor is it love of beauty. Creativeness comes into being when there is constant awareness of the ways of the mind, and of the hindrances it has built for itself.
The freedom to create comes with self-knowledge; but self-knowledge is not a gift. One can be creative without having any particular talent. Creativeness is a state of being in which the conflicts and sorrows of the self are absent, a state in which the mind is not caught up in the demands and pursuits of desire.
To be creative is not merely to produce poems, or statues, or children; it is to be in that state in which truth can come into being. Truth comes into being when there is a complete cessation of thought; and thought ceases only when the self is absent, when the mind has ceased to create, that is, when it is no longer caught in its own pursuits. When the mind is utterly still without being forced or trained into quiescence, when it is silent because the self is inactive, then there is creation.
The love of beauty may express itself in a song, in a smile, or in silence; but most of us have no inclination to be silent. We have not the time to observe the birds, the passing clouds, because we are too busy with our pursuits and pleasures. When there is no beauty in our hearts, how can we help the children to be alert and sensitive? We try to be sensitive to beauty while avoiding the ugly; but avoidance of the ugly makes for insensitivity. If we would develop sensitivity in the young, we ourselves must be sensitive to beauty and to ugliness, and must take every opportunity to awaken in them the joy there is in seeing, not only the beauty that man has created, but also the beauty of nature.