The Art of Living
When it comes to living, many of us are comfortable confirming our ways of living with stable foundations like religion, traditions, established and socially accepted cultural norms, and current fashionable trends that other people associate with and recognize. As a result, most of us live our lives following a prescribed pattern where every step has already been decided and fixed. In other words, most of us are living our lives romping through different signposts set at different junctures of life by our family, society, emerging trends, and culture. Earning, family, schooling, marriage, saving, traveling, mating- as if there is no other way out and we have to take a trail that has already been laid down without any option.
Moreover, in these times of social networking sites, we have become rather compulsive about framing our lives for other people to observe, share, and comment on, but what happens to life when others fail to observe and appreciate? Indeed, most of us live with the constant dread that other people may utterly fail to recognize and appreciate different portions of our lives. Besides, living with reference to others results in needless comparison and contrast of your life with the actions, reactions, achievements, failures, and successes of other people, because of which, rather than becoming comfortable with what we already have, we become anxious and envious of things we don’t even need. Just think how difficult, tedious, boring, and depressing it would be to try to fit tightly into roles, expectations, and responsibilities tailored by someone else without your proper measurements, shapes, and sizes. But isn’t that life for most of us?
Here, it is important to realize that life, in its essence beyond social constructs and expectations, is an empty canvas, and it is up to each of us to paint our art of living. It doesn’t matter whether that piece of art is abstract, a real imitation, surreal, modern, traditional, or even absurd and bogus; make your own art of living that resonates and reflects your creativity, comfort, context, possibilities, and differences. It is up to us to give a sense of purpose to our lives, develop our talents, improve ourselves, listen to our inner callings, find a sense of ease within ourselves, explore our interests, and unleash our creativity.
When we recognize how different our lives are from the lives of other people due to our specific lived experiences, upbringing, personality types, levels of motivation, cognitive faculties, genetic structures, struggles, and learning differences, we also realize how meaningless and irrelevant it is to imitate, compare, or become jealous of other people and how they define success, failure, happiness, and achievement. As Mahatma Gandhi succinctly summed it up, happiness begins to sprout in our lives when there is harmony between what we think, say, and what you do. Hence, to live a life without envy, jealousy, anxiety, or external compulsions, you need to make your art of living a bridge that connects your being and doing, with becoming.
Moreover, when our achievements and successes fail to make us happy, satisfied, and content, we need to realize that the life we are living in the outer world has not found its balance in our inner landscapes. As a result, apart from setting life goals and seeking professional achievements, wealth, fulfillment, and success in the outer world, it is also equally necessary for us to become self-aware of a still point of our being away from all the sounds and fury of the world and be at peace with ourselves. Besides, apart from living a life from our own perspectives, it is also equally necessary for us to explore and connect with something other than ourselves: the sky, friends, stars, birds, books, art, rivers, hills, philosophy, poetry, theater, and music. After all, there are so many things apart from ourselves to be conscious of and aware of in the universe.
Here, we must not forget that life never lets you achieve complete happiness, and for so many things you have gained, life creates holes to pull you down, and life adds one limitation after another. And the beauty of life is that it is a stage where drama unfolds without any linear plot, and the actors act without knowing the next chapter of their life story.
Similarly, we are living in a world of imperfections where human bonds are fragile, human nature is paradoxical and self-contradictory, unexpected calamities are an undeniable part of human existence, and, from the limits of death, human life seems rather absurd and meaningless. Therefore, we need that art of living that encourages us to love our lives and accept death in equal measure and also enables us to let go, adjust, and adapt to the changing realities of our lives.
In its basics, the art of living comes down to embracing life with the realization that “this is it”—this dynamic and unpredictable world of appearances and experiences is all we have, and there is nothing beyond, behind, or better than this. Therefore, it is for each of us to live each day passionately and thoughtfully and to feel, touch, explore, discover, and experience what it means to be alive before life withers away.
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