The Art of Living

A group of kindergarten children were polled and asked if they could sing. All hands rose. Can you dance? Again, all hands went up. But, can you act? No brainer, a full show of hands. The same questions were asked in upper grade classes, and only a few hands were raised. When high school students were polled, just a couple of kids considered themselves an artist of any kind.

Thank you to Leonard Cohen, Rick Mercer, Karen Kane and Margaret Atwood, for raising your hands.

So, something happens. We grow up. We get judged. We get marked. We get criticized. Maybe our expectations change, with respect to what art is and how capable we are of achieving artistic success. Maybe we discover that we’re good at math? The finger paintings that covered the fridge are, often times, replaced with report cards. Life sways in a different direction. We are encouraged to pursue that which represents our measurable strengths.

Thank you, Frank Gehry, Jean Paul Riopelle, Gordon Pinsett, and Yousuf Karsh.

Belief. That’s what I think art is about. And that’s what I think art can do. Art makes you believe in something…again. Art asks questions. Art challenges ideals. Art pushes boundaries. And on some days, art may make you feel shockingly uncomfortable. 

Thank you, Rufus Wainwright, Xavier Dolan, Alice Munroe, and Jim Carry.

The best part of art, for me, is that art enhances my life. When I see a painting, or hear a song, or watch a film, there is a part of me that begins to dream and imagine. I think differently, and believe in something that is probably impossible. That’s a good thing.

Thank you, John Irving, kd lang, Tom Thompson, and Lorne Michaels.

I wonder about the world stage; politics, government, law, medicine, education, international relations. In these fields of endeavors, have individuals been inspired by art to think outside of the box? How many times has someone needed to pause and perhaps read a passage from their favorite book in order to clear their mind before making a professional decision? Artistic awareness might rank right up there with golf and tennis in terms of influential networking. 

Thank you, Stephan Leacock, Sarah Polley, Emily Carr, and Maureen Forrester.

And the beauty of art is that it’s all around us. All we have to do is look.

On that note, I’m writing this column after a stay at a good friend’s cottage. It was a much-needed retreat from a fair amount of urban living. We left Ottawa and as the city faded into the background and we drove through the rolling Quebec hills, I was reminded of a different form of art: nature. That weekend, art was putting the car in neutral at the top of a hill on a dirt road and seeing how far we’d coast, while gravel crunched under the tires below, kicking up a cloud of country dust. Art was the steady rhythm of the waves caressing the lakeshore stones. Art was a stray dog joining me while jogging down a cottage road. Art was a campfire, a guitar and ‘The Gambler’.  Art was planting a tree.

Art is life. 

Or is life, art? 

Sometimes we forget about that, but children know.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone believed they could raise their hand?