the presence of art

Occasionally, a little nugget of words comes my way and strikes a little spark inside me. I read a lot, traveling roads paved with the sentences, ideas, discoveries, and conclusions of the world as seen through the eyes of others. Seeking to uncover my own undeniable truths, I sometimes find them in the most unlikely of places.

This morning I found a phrase about people turning their “lives into works of art.” I found it, of all places, in The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andre Comte-Sponville. Yes, there are spiritual atheists out there, self-selected and defined, but that is not what this blog is about.

This blog is about living life as a work of art. I am immediately enchanted with the idea. Even though the author of those words was using them to describe the lives of Nietzche and Oscar Wilde as miserable delusions, I cannot help but take that phrase to the next level and be the work of art, live as if I am a delicate sculpture or a carefully crafted oil painting or the twirl of a ballerina.

What if I can construct my thoughts as if they were already Pulitzer prize-winning stories? What if I can direct my limbs as if they were a choreographed Broadway score? What if I can take my voice and create a symphony that makes me come alive with joy?

Thoughts to words.

Words to actions.

While I am seeking truth through the perception of others, I often find my own truths within the arguments of my own perceptions. I am spending these moments looking at every person, every creature as a work of art. It was no accident that a particular group of cells came together at a specific moment in time and joined with the living soul energy that now occupies that body. It was a carefully orchestrated plan that had been on the drawing board for centuries.

And each one deserves my applause.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass


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18 Responses to “the presence of art”

  1. sandiwhite Says:

    Barbara, I really like the idea of living as a living work of Art. We’ve all seen people, especially when we are in that exalted state of being in love, that we want to devour them with our eyes, soak up their every word, and stand breathless in their presence. Something about them captures and entrances our every thought. We see and appreciate every small detail of the physical being, are astounded by their mental processes, and feel the electricity of their aura. During that period of time we are regarding that one person as a living work of Art. Sadly though, the shine wears thin, or is revealed to have clay feet, or just a little something slips and we realize that they are human, just like us. But wouldn’t it be wonderful, if for a while, we could see the individual in the crowd, each one as a living, breathing work of Art? To appreciate each one the way his or her Maker does?

  2. Barbara Kass Says:

    I like finding these little reminders about how special we really are. It especially helps me when I start taking life too seriously. I was applying this today when people were getting on my nerves and I was feeling pressured. I just stopped and looked at people, remembering they have spent years and years getting to this moment in their lives. We are perfect, just the way we are.

  3. jeffstroud Says:


    The difference here is seeing or experiencing life and or living from a Logic/ Censor’s brain or Artist Brain, our artist brain is “our creative, holistic brain according to the Artist Way and our logic/censor brain is “part of our leftover survival brain”.
    I like how you found inspiration in the words of an atheist, a person censoring his world, of any and all possibilities…
    In Conversations with God Bk 2 says that “I have sent you nothing but angels”. Each one in their own form, individual self, to re – mind you/us of who we really are.
    Living life as a work of art is the action of being creative, even if it is to be a parent or a trash maintianance person, seeing the possibilities in all.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Jeff – thank you for the quote. I love it. It is easy for me to imagine that the nuggets of wisdom I find in life are being delivered on the wings of angels. I can be very logical and, fortunately, my logic has led me down paths that insist life makes sense at some level. It does not matter how we find our paths or what those paths are; what matters is who we become on those paths.

  4. holessence Says:

    Barbara – This is my third read of your blog in snippets and windows of opportunity. This time, however, I also have the opportunity to leave a comment.

    I REALLY resonate with the idea of lives as living works of art.

    And I HEARTILY agree that each and every individual person is the fruition of a carefully orchestrated plan.

    This post was like enjoying a big helping of garlic mashed potatoes — COMFORT FOOD. Thank you!

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      great, Laurie . . . now I have to go fix mashed potatoes! I love garlic mashed potatoes with heaps of butter (sigh). Like you, though, I find great comfort in the idea that life is by design. We are designing it. We are creating it. We belong in ways I don’t think we can imagine . . . yet!

  5. passionatepresence Says:

    I was in a meeting just yesterday. I was meeting with our project team. We were trying to get some data that we thought might exist, but didn’t know where. The woman meeting with us had a lot of knowledge about where data was stored or in this case hidden.

    We talked at length about the project and how this data or information was critical to the project. I was doing a good job of telling the story of why this was important, but I was having no success enlisting her help.

    One of the team members who has been around a while and conversant with the part of the business where this woman works began to participate. She was able to really engage and connect with her. The conversation weaved, ebbed, and flowed. As I listened I became part of that undefinable presence that was watching the whole thing unfold. It was not only artful, it was beautiful to watch and I had not thoughts about it being artful as I was so into it. It was a play of life unfolding spontaneously. It went on for about 30 min. and at the end this woman signed up with specific actions to help us out… gladly. The result while appreciated paled in comparison to the journey.

    Now at the time all this was going on, I was absolutely absorbed. I was completely intertwined and also watching as if from a distance yet at an intimate distance. I didn’t have to try. I didn’t have to make something out of it. I didn’t have to do a thing or view it a particular way.

    Only when it was done did my thoughts jump in and say Wow! That was beautiful! I even wrote my colleague a note of Thanks on what I could only label as Masterful and Artful.

    My point is thought and my best laid plans were the last to know or realize what happened. The seeing and being in it was the art long before thought had a viewpoint. It was the seeing… what is present… whatever this presence is that is looking out through these eyes that was appreciating the art of life. Thought got it long after and sometimes I can honestly say thought doesn’t get it at all.

    Life is art without effort. No pre planning involved just the clarity of seeing the unfolding and marveling at its intricacies and facets. Long before thought comes in and labels and categorizes. I don’t have to make the effort to see art in life. Life is art spontaneously and dynamically unfolding. Seeing that clearly takes it beyond even the label of art and yet that is the appropriate description.

    Another work of art was when I first read this blog entry Barbara, I had no idea what to write, so I didn’t write anything. A friend from England sent me an email and the inspiration from that email brought clarity to what I wanted to write here, so I came back. Shew! When the inspiration hit and I knew what I wanted to write that recognition was artful or arting (verb) and it just made me smile. I didn’t even know what I was going to write yet. The simplest things as they are just so darn magical sometimes it leaves me completely blown out.

    Nice way to end the night with is always here prior to my ideas about it, and yet these ideas and language can lead to the recognition of life as art.

    It must be art, because it is way too intricate for me to keep up with. lol!

    Great Topic.
    Thank you!

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      I just love these stories you tell, Ben. Your life is an unending unfolding play. I might read my truths in the words of others and make them mine while you are engaged at the level of action and witness. They are both grand teachers. What is truly engaging is that you are willing to live in those moments suspended of judgment, right/wrong, and own what you have seen as yours. So many people would have sat in that same meeting and never seen the gift. I am also amazed how life delivers our answers, such as the e-mail you received from England — how connected is that!? Everything that is showing up in my life is because I have something to learn from it (like Jeff said above — every messenger is an angel).

  6. passionatepresence Says:

    Yes! After I logged off, it arose that everything is teaching. I really don’t think I have seen it as fully before.

    I was sitting in the online retreat last week, and a new friend was talking about his struggles. As I was listening to him, thoughts kept arising Yep! That has happened here. Yes, I have believed or am believing that thought. Oh Yes! I really am not clear there. Everything that came up was a mirror for something here. So, everything that came up in response to that was a blessing of seeing with much more clarity. He was just serving up the awareness platter with recognition on the side.

    A couple of the ladies would be talking about their week, and it would occur to me “Wow!” That sounds very similar to the week here.

    It was a break through recently that if it is showing up, it probably has something to say. Just opening to that possibility has made a huge difference in the ability to see, recognize, and celebrate the art and magic in life. It is not about what I know that helps me. It is what I am vulnerable and intimate enough to open to honestly. Then clarity comes in sometimes sooner, sometimes later. I never know in advance though. It is a total surprise and gift if I don’t get ahead of the game and put on the Oh Yeah! I know all about that.

    Who knew? Vulnerability and the willingness to be exposed and penetrated by what presence reveals within beyond my conceptual paradigms was it?

    We are taught to know and be experts. We are taught to have all this information and skill. Those things do help for sure in earning a living for example. It also important to say that if I don’t have clarity… I am not open to what presence reveals within that I don’t see or experience directly the art of life.

    Lao Tzu was on the money. That which is soft and supple can bend and receive in the wind of life. That which is hard and knows breaks. I have done both. I prefer the latter now. ;o)

    Yes! Every messenger an angel! Bravo! Well said.

    In Gratitude!

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Ben – looking at life with the question “what can this teach me?” “what am I to learn here?” requires that we admit that we don’t know everything, and that can make us feel vulnerable. The older I get, the less I know. Not knowing opens up so many possibilities for exploration and, as you say above, everyone I meet is my teacher.

  7. holessence Says:

    Barbara – As a person who enjoys the idea of living by design, you may well enjoy my friend, Alison’s, blog:

    “Life by Design with Alison Elliot – Consider the Possibilities.”

    Here’s a link:

  8. redpresence Says:

    hi there i loved the idea of bieng the art doing it as our everyday nature, being the cause, being in the not knowing. Right now plans are not happening and something else occurs so instead of withholding I jump in with the next something and go with it. Life is so different.
    I was amazed reading your red fox piece. I will revisit what black panther means as I was spellbound 2 years ago when one loped across the path in front of me. It eyeballed me for a few seconds before going bush near Joanna Beach in the Otways Victoria.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hello, redpresence — thank you for visiting; I pulled out my Ted Andrews Animal Speak book to give you a few insights on the black panther: a very powerful and ancient totem, a symbol of ferocity and valor. Panthers tend to be loners, are more comfortable by themselves. Panthers are graceful and very quiet when stalking prey – those with a panther totem will find great power in silence as they pursue their goals. Panthers are good sprinters, but not good at long distance running. Those with a panther totem must pace themselves. A panther totem also indicates you might have been born with the insight that others often seek through meditation. People with this totem are also very sensitive physically such as heightened skin sensitivity. Darkness is your greatest element of power.

      This is just a sample of all there is to learn about this totem. I hope some of this resonates with you. What an honor to have had eye-to-eye contact with such a power animal.

  9. passionatepresence Says:

    I thought this poem by William Stafford fit….

    A Message from Space

    Everything that happens is the message:
    you read an event and be one and wait,
    like breasting a wave, all the while knowing
    by living, though not knowing how to live.

    Or workers built an antenna — a dish
    aimed at stars — and they themselves are its message,
    crawling in and out, being worlds that loom,
    dot-dash, and sirens, and sustaining beams.

    And sometimes no one is calling but we turn up
    eye and ear — suddenly we fall into
    sound before it begins, the breathing
    so still it waits there under the breath —

    And then the green of leaves calls out, hills
    where they wait or turn, clouds in their frenzied
    stillness unfolding their careful words:
    “Everything counts. The message is the world.”

    ~ William Stafford ~

    (The Way It Is)

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Ben — I never thought about how I might be a message for the world . . . that brings about a whole new set of responsibilities. And quite possibly my next blog. I need to meditate on this poem for a bit . . . everything counts — what a wonderful way to embrace all that is.

  10. holessence Says:

    Barbara – I’m glad you visited Alison’s blog. Have yourself a GREAT weekend!

  11. the presence of messages « Eternal Presence Says:

    […] presence of messages By Barbara Kass The presence of art was only prelude to a magnificent door opening for me. It is the presence of messages. In that blog, […]

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