Your Own Life’s Meaning

“Sketchbook” | Anthony Satori

“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess, a person happy doing their own work is usually considered eccentric, if not subversive. Cultivate resources within yourself that bring you happiness outside of what others define as success and failure. To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”

– Bill Watterson (creator of the comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes)

Elevate Your Mind

“Seek Light” | Anthony Satori

“Artists are here to disturb the peace.”

 – Madonna

I disagree.

Artists are not here to disturb the peace. Quite to the contrary, artists are here to point the way to something better, something higher. Artists are here to illuminate universal goodness, beauty, and truth. Artists are here to connect our minds and spirits by shining a light on shared human values, virtues, and meaning. To put it most succinctly, artists are here to elevate consciousness. And this, it seems to me, is quite the opposite of “disturbing the peace.”

It’s true, sometimes the expansion of consciousness can be disorienting in its exhilaration. It can have the side effect of shaking up the status quo, of waking us up from the hypnosis of complacency. But this is not the primary goal of art. It is not even its primary side effect. And if we mistake this secondary side effect for the actual purpose of art, we will miss it entirely. If we proceed under this misapprehension – especially if artists themselves engage in this folly – we will miss out on one of the most sacred and pure paths to enlightenment and enrichment that we, as humans, have available to us.

Other potential sources have failed us in this pursuit, time and time again. Religion, politics, media, education – each have failed us disastrously in this measure, at some point or another, often in what seems to be nothing less than orchestrated concert. And when we find ourselves in this state of affairs, art remains the last and best refuge of enlightenment. And when artists fail to live up to this ideal – when they fail to even recognize it – society suffers greatly.

“Humanistic scholars and artists used to be, and were supposed to be, as a group, carriers of and teachers of the eternal verities and the higher life. The goal of humanistic studies was… to inspire the student to the better life, to the higher life, to goodness and virtue. But in recent years and to this day, most humanistic scholars and artists have shared in the general collapse of all traditional values. And when these values collapse, there are no others readily available as replacements.”

– A. H. Maslow

A Single and Eternal Flow of Energy

“Lightning Storm” | Anthony Satori

“The sensation of ‘I’ as a lonely and isolated center of being is so powerful and common-sensical, and so fundamental to our modes of speech and thought… that we cannot help but experience selfhood except as something superficial in the scheme of the universe. I seem to be a brief light that flashes but once in all the aeons of time – a rare, complicated, and all-too-delicate organism on the fringe of biological evolution, where the wave of life bursts into individual, sparkling, and multi-colored drops that gleam for a moment only to vanish forever. Under such conditioning, it seems impossible and even absurd to realize that my ‘self’ does not reside in the drop alone, but in the whole surge of energy which ranges from the galaxies to the nuclear fields in my body. At this level of existence… my forms are infinite, and their comings and goings are simply the pulses or vibrations of a single and eternal flow of energy.”

– Alan Watts

Stone Tower

“Stone Tower” | Anthony Satori

“In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you love. In family life, be completely present.”

– Lao Tzu

The Transient Beauty of Flowers

“California Poppies in Bloom” | Anthony Satori

Hanami is the traditional Japanese custom of appreciating the transient beauty of flowers. Most commonly associated with cherry blossoms, or sakura – which bloom all across Japan for about two weeks during spring – the tradition of hanami dates back over a thousand years, and it was originally celebrated around plum blossoms, or ume. The spirit of hanami can, of course, be celebrated in appreciation of any flower, such as the California poppy, which similarly arrives in full bloom for just a few short weeks during the California springtime.

Every spring, all across Japan, the coming of the cherry blossoms is anticipated with great excitement. The bloom can occur as early as March and as late as May, and it only lasts about two weeks, so the TV news channels and meteorologists keep a close eye on seasonal variables so that they can keep everyone posted as to when the event will most likely occur. And then, when the flowers bloom, they seem to explode off the trees in an overwhelming experience of color and beauty. It is nothing less than transformative to the appearance and feeling of the world around you. And, for just a few short days, the entire culture slows down. People throw festive outdoor parties. They stroll along the streets and avenues soaking in the vibrant pink and white colors of the flowers. And when the night falls, they light and release magically glowing paper lanterns into the darkened sky. Some people write their hopes and dreams on these lanterns. Others write things that they wish to be free of, things that they desire to release from their lives. Some people just hold their wishes secretly in their hearts as they light the flame, and then they watch the lanterns fly silently away into the night sky, carrying their hopes and prayers off into the universe. Hanami is a festival of flowers, but it is really a celebration of the transient beauty of life. It is a chance to slow down and to appreciate what is beautiful, right here, right now, in this moment. It is an opportunity to become aware of what you are feeling in your heart, and to connect with what others are feeling in theirs. It is a chance to pause, to take a deep breath, and to inhale the wonder of being alive.

Perhaps it would be good for all of our souls if we were each to engage in our own personal hanami, in some form or another, every day. Just to pause, now and then, throughout the day, to celebrate – by ourselves, or with loved ones – whatever goodness and beauty there is around us, in that moment. Life is short. But while we are here, if we choose to remain awake and aware, we have this moment. This moment is ours. And it offers us a window into eternity, available to us whenever we wish to access it. In this moment we can choose to experience beauty, to share time, to express love, to find joy. And if we consciously choose to lay claim to our own personal hanami in this manner, every single day, we will have truly won eternity.