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‘Beauty and the Artist’
Questioner: I wonder what an artist is? There on the banks of the Ganges, in a dark little room, a man sits weaving a most beautiful sari in silk and gold, and in Paris in his atelier another man is painting a picture which he hopes will bring him fame. Somewhere there is a writer cunningly spinning out stories stating the old, old problem of man and woman; then there is the scientist in his laboratory and the technician putting together a million parts so that a rocket may go to the moon. And in India a musician is living a life of great austerity in order to transmit faithfully the distilled beauty of his music. There is the housewife preparing a meal, and the poet walking alone in the woods. Aren’t these all artists in their own way? I feel that beauty is in the hands of everybody, but they don’t know it. The man who makes beautiful clothes or excellent shoes, the woman who arranged those flowers on your table, all of them seem to work with beauty. I often wonder why it is that the painter, the sculptor, the composer, the writer – the so-called creative artists – have such extraordinary importance in this world and not the shoemaker or the cook. Aren’t they creative too? When you consider all the varieties of expression which people consider beautiful, then what place has a true artist in life, and who is the true artist? It is said that beauty is the very essence of all life. Is that building over there, which is considered to be so beautiful, the expression of that essence? I should greatly appreciate it if you would go into this whole question of beauty and the artist.
Krishnamurti: Surely the artist is one who is skilled in action? This action is in life and not outside of life. Therefore if it is living skilfully that truly makes an artist. This skill can operate for a few hours in the day when he is playing an instrument, writing poems or painting pictures, or it can operate a bit more if he is skilled in many such fragments – like those great men of the Renaissance who worked in several different media. But the few hours of music or writing may contradict the rest of his living which is in disorder and confusion. So is such a man an artist at all? The man who plays the violin with artistry and keeps his eye on his fame isn’t interested in the violin, he is only exploiting it to be famous, the “me” is far more important than the music, and so it is with the writer or the painter with an eye on fame. The musician identifies his “me” with what he considers to be beautiful music, and the religious man identifies his “me” with what he considers to be the sublime. All these are skilled in their particular little fields but the rest of the vast field of life is disregarded. So we have to find out what is skill in action, in living, not only in painting or in writing or in technology, but how one can live the whole of life with skill and beauty. Are skill and beauty the same? Can a human being – whether he be an artist or not – live the whole of his life with skill and beauty? Living is action and when that action breeds sorrow it ceases to be skilful. So can a man live without sorrow, without friction, without jealousy and greed, without conflict of any kind? The issue is not who is an artist and who is not an artist but whether a human being, you or another, can live without torture and distortion. Of course it is profane to belittle great music, great sculpture, great poetry or dancing, or to sneer at it; that is to be unskilled in one’s own life. But the artistry and beauty which is skill in action should operate throughout the day, not just during a few hours of the day. This is the real challenge, not just playing the piano beautifully. You must play it beautifully if you touch it at all, but that is not enough. It is like cultivating a small corner of a huge field. We are concerned with the whole field and that field is life. What we always do is to neglect the whole field and concentrate on fragments, our own or other people’s. Artistry is to be completely awake and therefore to be skilful in action in the whole of life, and this is beauty.
Questioner: What about the factory worker or the office employee? Is he an artist? Doesn’t his work preclude skill in action and so deaden him that he has no skill in anything else either? Is he not conditioned by his work?
Krishnamurti: Of course he is. But if he wakes up he will either leave his work or so transform it that it becomes artistry. What is important is not the work but the waking up to the work. What is important is not the conditioning of the work but to wake up.
Questioner: What do you mean, wake up?
Krishnamurti: Are you awakened only by circumstances, by challenges, by some disaster or joy? Or is there a state of being awake without any cause? If you are awakened by an event, a cause, then you depend on it, and when you any dependence is the end of skill, the end of artistry.
Questioner: What is this other awakened state that has no cause? You are talking about a state in which there is neither a cause nor an effect. Can there be a state of mind that is not the result of some cause? I don’t understand that because surely everything we think and everything we are is the result of a cause? There is the endless chain of cause and effect.
Krishnamurti: This chain of cause and effect is endless because the effect becomes the cause and the cause begets further effects, and so on.
Questioner: Then what action is there outside this chain?
Krishnamurti: All we know is action with a cause, a motive, action which is a result. All action is in relationship. If relationship is based on cause it is cunning adaptation, and therefore inevitably leads to another form of dullness. Love is the only thing that is causeless, that is free; it is beauty, it is skill, it is art. Without love there is no art. When the artist is playing beautifully there is no “me; there is love and beauty, and this is art. This is skill in action. Skill in action is the absence of the “me”. Art is the absence of the “me”. But when you neglect the whole field of life and concentrate only on a little part – however much the “me” may then be absent, you are still living unskilfully and therefore you are not an artist of life. The absence of “me” in living is love and beauty, which brings its own skill.
This is the greatest art: living skilfully in the whole field of Life.
Questioner: Oh Lord! How am I to do that? I see it and feel it in my heart but how can I maintain it?
Krishnamurti: There is no way to maintain it, there is no way to nourish it, there is no practising of it; there is only the seeing of it. Seeing is the greatest of all skills.