The Art of Embracing

Picasso and many other artists have described the creation of art not as something that comes from them but as something that comes through them. The artistic temperament, then, seems often if not always to depend on receptivity to something greater—call it the Muses, inspiration, the creative spark, or whatever else. The artist doesn’t embrace the artistic dispensation as much as he or she is embraced by it.

To the extent that we have some interest in living our lives artistically, in the sense of creatively and expressively, we might do well to look at this idea of being embraced rather than embracing. Western culture especially (though certainly not only) is big on taking charge, on our ability to get out there and make things happen. The Puritan ethic is founded on it. Supported by the principles of Romanticism, democracy, capitalism, free will, and various ethical systems including the Church (especially post-Reformation), this idea of going out and embracing life in the first-person-active-voice is proffered as the remedy to sloth, irresponsibility, and other character traits regarded as failings if not as sins. In this forced choice between the virtue of willfully embracing on one hand or passively missing opportunities on the other, the third, artistic option is entirely overlooked—the option that allows us, through our willingness, to be embraced by and to express something greater than our will.

In his famous work, The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran says of love, “And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.” Here we have the idea of being embraced. Perhaps it is the same with other things. Our destiny, for example, or purpose in life, may not be something we choose, but something that, if we’re willing, chooses us. If so, the ability to recognize when one is being chosen would be essential, an ability without which we could only live an incomplete and unfulfilled life. And in all our running around to embrace this or that, we might miss the one embrace that matters most.

Field theory tells us directly that whatever we want also wants something of us. Every desire, no matter how trivial it may seem, no matter how incidental the context, implies a corresponding shift in identity. Fulfillment comes to us by right and authority of this identity, through our being willing to live up to whatever the thing we want wants of us. Many people, for example, following the principle of making things happen by willfully embracing something may put a lot of attention on finding the perfect partner. How many, do you suppose, put their attention on being the perfect partner? Field theory tells us that, if we became the version of self that corresponds to what we want, then what we want would find us, spontaneously and effortlessly.

These things are measured by subtle standards, chief among them beauty and grace—that is, by artistic standards. It is far more beautiful, far more graceful to become attractive and receive than to chase things and shove them into one’s pockets. Because receiving is more beautiful, more graceful than taking, it is infinitely more gratifying. Being embraced is more beautiful and graceful than throwing one’s arms around something. We are not talking here about a physical embrace, though it may apply there, too. We are not even ruling out embracing things in the metaphoric sense, only noting that our embraces become more beautiful and graceful when we’re willing to release our will and wait to be embraced first by whatever we want to embrace—in other words, to embrace in return. To live beautifully, artistically, gracefully depends on spending more time receiving, perhaps less transmitting. This can happen only if we slow down, tune in, and heed the call of the inner artist, the one who’s ready, willing, and able to create a new version of us, to inspire us, to pick up the colors of our identity and paint fulfillment in our heart and, indirectly and in a form we cannot predict, on the canvas of the world.

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