Art and How to Live

Boreal forest and reflections in a small kettle pond, Copper River Basin, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Boreal forest and reflections in a small kettle pond, Copper River Basin, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

It’s often said that art can teach us how to live. This is true, yet it’s also commonly misinterpreted. The product of art, what we call the photograph, or the lyric, or the dance, doesn’t teach us how to live. The product of art, these artifacts, can show us how someone ELSE lived.

On the other hand, the making of art (which is REALLY where art is), can teach us how to live.

This process, the making of art, illustrates how we might live; how we might be fully present, engaged, conscious. More fully alive.

The act of creating is a portal by which we might be connected with creation itself. That’s how we should live.

For most of us regular, “non-Dalai Lama” folks, the process of making art is one of the very few things we do where we might experience that realm of consciousness and presence. Making love might be another. I think sport, what athletes call being “in the zone” references that same state of being. A connection with the moment so powerful we’re aware of nothing else but that moment. Aware of nothing else, because there is nothing else, nothing but the present.

This is how to live. Conscious, alert and engaged. Fully present. The gift art holds is not for audience, but for ourselves, those who practice it. Most of us rarely acknowledge that.

In looking through the viewfinder, we look at ourselves; at our world, our lives, our experience. The moment of us. Every picture we take is a self portrait. The process of making those photographs, of composing and playing that music, is the process of living, of being alive. It’s the process of being ourselves. The process of creating, of creation; that’s the process of the universe itself.

Art doesn’t simply teach us how to live, and illustrate our experiences and moments in time. Art is life. It’s who we are. Art is Creation.



9 thoughts on “Art and How to Live

  1. Michael E. Gordon

    Greatly agreed, Carl. I have a ‘negative’ that can be added to the the realm of consciousness and presence: PAIN. I’ve suffered a lot from it, but I’ve been amazed at the wild intersections of pain, endorphins, and mind control, and have experienced some crazy moments of consciousness while under pain’s grasp. I’d much rather experience pleasure, yet pain is no less powerful.

  2. David

    Great post! I used to play a lot of sports and I do feel like lining up that perfect shot is very similar to “being in the zone” as many athletes describe the feeling. It is somewhat of a self aware, out of body feeling. It feels like a connection to what you are photographing. Awesome description!

  3. Augustine

    “Conscious, alert and engaged. Fully present.” I just love these words. Such power to be gained from being in the moment. Thank you for reaffirming my lifes ambitions.

  4. David Leland Hyde

    What a beautiful image: trees and reflections suspended all in light blue. Your prose is an inspiration to read too, with a poignant message and many fine supporting ideas that ring so true. Clearly this is the antidote to “the drudgery at the end of summer.” It’s as though you brought back to us your joy at being in the field.

  5. Carl D Post author

    Hey everyone,

    Thanks so much for the kind words, I’m glad you enjoyed this.

    Michael G – that’s true, I think pain can very much be a window into that state of consciousness; though usually (i.e., lesser pain levels) I think we go unconscious and kind of move into an adversarial place. But that big stuff you’ve been dealing with, absolutely! Wish you well soon, bro’.



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