While searching for Monday’s Quote of the Week, I found myself traveling down a rabbit hole of poetry about autumn. I don’t often take the time to read and contemplate poems at length, but when I do, I’m rarely disappointed. There’s something about a poem that can communicate a feeling so profoundly. Free from prose’s need to explain everything in complete sentences, poetry can make its point through images and metaphors, playing with rhythm and structure in ways that make the reader appreciate language like never before. A great poem has the power to make me feel connected to its author through universal human experience, conveyed with just the right words.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Akrotiri archaeological site on Santorini island in Greece, along with a couple of museums housing works of art discovered at the site. Observing items that were created thousands of years before the common era led me to think about humans’ desire to make art. The pieces on display were not limited to pottery designed to hold water and foodstuffs, nor to religious symbols. There were elaborate wall paintings and meticulously crafted sculptures of animals and human figures. Like other artists throughout history, these people of the distant past devoted time and scarce resources to producing beautiful objects that served no obvious utilitarian purpose. Our drive to make things that we don’t really need is unique to humans and appears to be deeply ingrained. Why do we do it?
As my mom will tell you, I’ve never very been good at relaxing. Since about sixth grade, I’ve been involved in all sorts of things. As an adult, you will rarely find me sitting down when I’m at home. I tend to spend my evenings and weekends working out, doing yard work, doing laundry or other chores around the house, attending a meeting or event, visiting friends, or working on some kind of project. I pretty much never sit in front of a television, and my relaxation time is usually scheduled (e.g., yoga class, meditation group, occasional massage or mani/pedi).
One of my favorite TV shows right now is The Last Man on Earth. The show’s premise is that a viral outbreak has killed nearly all people and animals, save a few who were immune or unexposed. At the beginning of the show, we meet Phil Miller, who’s been traveling the country trying to find other survivors after losing everyone he knew. He’s miserable and lonely, and just when he’s about to give up on life, he meets another survivor, Carol. As the series progresses, a few others join them. Phil struggles to adjust to living with people again. The circumstances bring together dissimilar people who likely would not have crossed paths before the virus, and we watch them try to figure out how to live in this new world. The show is quirky, funny, creative, and at times poignant, though it’s not as depressing as you might guess.
“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”
At the beginning of 2016, in addition to making a couple of specific resolutions, I set an intention for the year: Consume Less, Produce More. I wasn’t talking about shopping habits or solid waste, but creative output. I had come to realize that I was spending 30-45 minutes checking Facebook every morning, indiscriminately reading content that others had posted and shared. I was watching Hulu and Netflix while cooking and doing chores, and reading articles online before bed. My focus was being pulled and directed by people other than me. My attention span was shorter than I would have liked, and my once robust flow of ideas seemed to have slowed to a trickle. I reminisced about how much mental energy I’d had ten years before. I decided it was time to take back control of my brain and my time.
Ever since I decided to attend law school, people have been asking me how a person with an art background becomes a lawyer. I’m not going to talk about my reasons for pursuing a legal career today (I’ll save that for another post), but I do want to explore how creative pursuits can benefit us in our jobs and lives.