How should we live? Historically it’s been a question consigned to the realm of religions and spiritual traditions. Science pursues questions of why. Philosophy traditionally points us to the things that are important. The arts offer us, in stories, music, food, and the like, experiences of living. But the religions and spiritual traditions of the world (which, for simplicity, we’ll call “religions”) offer practices of living, practices intended to help us meet our needs and provide for what we lack.
For religions, how one ought to live one’s life involves practices, content, and structure that break down along a number of dimensions including ritual, narrative, experiential, institutional, ethical, doctrinal, and material. While the non-religious and atheists may lack the formal structures of religion, they have created their own versions of practices and content.
Religions describe what’s wrong with the world (“the problem”) and then address it by proposing a solution with practices and techniques. Five of the world’s major religions might be described this way:
|Return to God|
|Technique||Five Pillars: Profession of
faith, Prayer, Charity, Fasting, Pilgrimage
|Combine Faith & Good Works||System of Ethics and Social Behavior||Achieve Nirvana through
8-fold path including
Practices of Meditation and Chanting
|Tell the Story and Follow the Law|
The problems of religion speak to the problems of deficiency, or lack. The deficiencies are often described in religious stories about physical, social, or psychology tensions or lack of wellbeing.
The solutions are paths to healing, of satisfying or relieving the deficiency, of seeking or returning to wholeness. This path toward wholeness is one that often leverages our connectedness with ourselves, others, and our environment. Religion is actually derived from a word that means to bind, connect. We often feel that connectedness as our spirituality.
The Art of Wellbeing (AWB) is certainly not a religion but rather a program to offer another perspective on the common problem to which religions point: lack of wholeness. Through rich experiences in art and nature AWB allows us to better see how our needs are connected, the architecture of our wholeness, if you will. The experiences that illuminate that connectedness are when we feel most alive, most in the flow, most spiritual.
AWB, in formulating its perspective, takes advantage of the convergence of Arts, Science and the Humanities, so we can sharpen our perception of wellbeing.
The arts and nature remind us of the quest for wholeness, whether it be in the pain of the theatrical tragedy or natural disaster or in the sublime, rich experience of a beautiful song, a wonderfully prepared meal, or simply viewing the night sky.
In science we learn why and how our physical selves relate to each other and our environment.
So, how are we to live our lives? Taking a cue from the world’s religions, we are to live our lives “in the solution.” The solution is what we long for, a path to wholeness. For AWB that path includes our wellbeing. AWB’s mission is to inspire new paths of healing and wholeness through experiences in art and nature.
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote a beautiful poem about our longing for wholeness:
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
— Book of Hours, I 59
Next week: Our Connectedness: Consider the Rose
Prothero, S. (2010). God Is Not One. New York, NY: HarperOne.
Rilke, R. M. (1996). Rilke’s Book of Hours. (A. B. Macy, Trans.) New York: Riverhead Books.