Alain de Botton has quickly become my favourite new philosopher and in case you have not yet made his acquaintance I would like to introduce you to him. There is a series of videos connected to his School of Life but the one I watched for the second time today is through Rijksmuseum discussing Art as Therapy. Alone, I could listen to his voice, accent and cadence as well as his sense of humor for hours on end. He is grand company and peruses life with a lightness and depth that intertwines beautifully.
“When it is argued that art is therapeutic, what does that mean?” he asks. “The goal of the therapeutic process is not that you become happy all the time, it is that you become emotionally mature which means and will demand a real acquaintance with tragedy. Tragedy and loss and grief are written into the contract of life and therefore a proper acquaintance and negotiation with this belongs to maturity.”
I like his ideas. His perspective on flower paintings is that one needs to suffer quite a lot before truly appreciating a flower, that some of the most heartbroken painters would paint them and that. in a way, against a wider backdrop of pain and complexity these things start to seem much, much more important. Also, “The real dangers most of us are facing are not naivety and sentimentality. What we’re really in danger of facing is clinical depression because things are so difficult and so tough and the world has so many problems and we’re reminded of them at every turn. What lies emotionally behind prettiness is hope, the hope that we need to get through the day. We need a reminder of that occasionally because we get so aware of the converse that we lose sight of this very basic quality.”
Minimalism can be a seeking for peace and tranquility. An exaggerated concept that aims to balance the multiple complexities of modern life. With the unending influx of overstimulation we at times acclimate to, minimalism can be the blank wall we want to stare into. Sometimes we want to look at nothing; the world is already so full. Peacefulness of a landscape is harder to find than in days past. Congestion is the norm, now. Telephone wires and piles of debris are sometimes even in the most picturesque of places. At times when I have traveled I have desired a time travel view when land was not adulterated by roads and signs and an overemphasis of creations, including sounds, crowding our spaces. We have lost the bare complexminimalism and purity that started with the beginning of the planet. Add to that a hectic pace of life, lights that turn night into daytime possibilities. If we want to return, perhaps we could find this recovery in art. We have so much now; there can be too much of a good thing. Visually, emotionally, physically the world can be chaotic and tragic. Art offers sanctuary: a place of refuge, safety and peace.
On the days you seek sanctuary, may you find it. Find it within, find it within art.