Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 73: The Art of Happiness (or the Happiness of Art)

I've run across a couple of quotes the last two days which seem to be trying to tell me something.  The first, on Chris Guillebeau's brilliant blog The Art of Non-conformity:

"Some singers want the audience to love them. I love the audience."

Spoken by none other than Luciano Pavarotti, the opera singer in me naturally took note of this.  Chris was highlighting how writers (bloggers specifically) are always asking "how can I get more" (attention/readers/money) instead of focusing on "how can I give more".   Having gone through a few days of feeling discouraged that my blog hasn't yet become an international internet sensation, this really struck me.  Instead of thinking about how can I get more audience, I might do well to think about how I can give more to my audience.  I started to wonder about this beyond my blog, to how it might apply to my playwriting, my singing, all my art.  Have I been too selfish as an artist?  Has it been too much about what I get out of it?  Why I need to do my art?  Is that was has been holding me back? Then this morning, this quote was on my yogi tea bag:

"The art of happiness is to serve all." 

As an artist who is trying to figure out how to be happy, the particular phrasing of this quote struck me. The art of happiness.   Not "happiness comes from giving" or "you serve yourself when you serve others" or any number of other ways this could have been expressed, but "the art of happiness."  Which implies of course that happiness is an art, a craft, something to be cultivated, finessed, mastered.  And that one accomplishes this by serving others.

Ah, but art can be such a self-indulgent enterprise!  And it is so easy to get lost in the "I" of it all, especially when you are hoping/longing/dreaming of actually having a money-making career at it.

I don't want to sell myself short here -- while I love applause and adulation and good reviews and lots of blog hits as much as the next artist, I am most deeply moved and humbled when someone tells me that my singing or writing has changed them in some way, has caused them to feel something, think about something differently, or even just delighted them.  Those moments are why I do this.  Those transcendent moments when the art breaks down the barriers between you and other people, and you all become one in an experience.  That is what I live for.  While I hadn't forgotten that, I needed the reminder.  I think I have been focused too inward.  Focused too much on how can I get more.  Time for me to remember and reexamine how I can give more.

Perhaps that is not only the art of happiness.  Perhaps that is the happiness of art.
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