S E L F
Central to the search for ars vitae, or the art of life, is the question “who am I and how should I live?” This has been a perennial conundrum of mankind ever since we developed self-consciousness, and is one of the central subjects of religion, philosophy and literature.
In ARS VITAE Volume 2, we posed the question to writers and artists from various walks of life: What is a true self and how do you attain it?
The answers we received are truly wide-ranging. An artist describes it as a process of letting go of worldly concerns and emptying himself. His art is about erasing all the words on the newspaper with a pen and a pencil. A corporate CEO talks about the experience of facing himself for the first time in his life when he was
abruptly let go by his company. The calligraphic works of a famous 19th-century Korean scholar and official show him transcending all worldly distinctions of class, religion and vicissitudes of life with a brush. And a German author overcomes personal pain and suffering by embarking on a life-long search for enlightenment in his works.
Many religious and spiritual traditions offer the view that human nature is innately good and that our task is to cultivate it so that it will shine forth. To this a neuroscientist posits that the self is only a creation of the brain – a purely physical phenomenon. Yet another scientist disagrees and says that we are all spiritual beings experiencing the physical world as human beings. In one interview, a Harvard-educated former monk says that we should take full benefit of what science is uncovering about ourselves and the universe, and that it will
help pave the way for a new spiritual civilization.
The ways of reaching the true self are just as varied, from dynamic methods such as singing and dancing to the more traditional method of meditation. A tea master tells us that a perfectly brewed cup of green tea can lead us into a whole world of deep contemplation, and a priest talks about why our inner voice is more easily heard in silence.
For the first time in ARS VITAE Volume 2 we have also included a music playlist. This list provides an enjoyable way of studying the self in that these famous recordings were either made after the musicians went through lifechanging experiences that woke them up to a whole new self, or capture the extraordinary moments when the musicians’ lives became one with their art in perfection.
We hope you will enjoy the words, artworks, and music in this volume, and slip into a quiet and happy contemplation about the self.