Humanity is perched on an evolutionary precipice where the choice is, literally, start making smarter choices or die. There are few scientists who would argue that continuing along the path we are currently on will lead to a catastrophe, and those who do are probably receiving a paycheck from a corporation, an oil company, or a government. Although generations before may have thought that their age was the most exciting and dramatic of all times, I think we officially steal the crown. Across the planet, elders from indigenous tribes are declaring this era a time of prophecy and transformation, the Hopis declare “We are the ones we have waited for”, the Mayans talk about 2012 being the end of humanity as we know it, and technology progresses on an exponential curve. So in this time of massive transformation, how are we supposed to prepare?
One of the forerunners in this field is Jean Houston. She works with leaders and governments in 40 cultures and 100 countries, helping people understand better how to prepare for this shift. She was one of the founders of the Human Potential Movement , as well as a long list of impressive accomplishments including the authoring of 26 books. One of her principle philosophies is that of ‘Social Artistry’ and she describes it as “The art of enhancing human capacities in the light of social complexity… Social Artists are leaders in many fields who bring the same order of passion and skill that an artist brings to his or her art form, to the canvas of our social reality.”
So the idea is that in order to maximize your potential as a human being, and play an effective role in global social transformation, you should live your life with passion and creativity. Sculpt your life, your work, your relationships and your community as if they were precious works of art, and bring your uniqueness and inspiration to every breath. But it’s not just about your life, it’s about co-creating with other people and being creative about how we approach society. This means it’s time to question the norm, and carve out new social structures for our culture. If the social complexities of our time require people to learn how to live creatively, and that process in turn makes them more capable of taking a positive role in social transformation, then we should take every opportunity we can to practice.
Taking on a more creative approach to your life means that nothing is taken for granted anymore. Every interaction becomes a journey of discovery, and your conscious participation is essential. Rather than making assumptions about how things work, every aspect of culture is enriched with a new layer of meaning. In order to take part in global community and the complexity it provides, we must prepare ourselves on a local level by literally practicing on our friends! Our art becomes our community, our passion for living is expressed in the nuance of our interactions, and the resulting deepening of awareness prepares us for a cultural shift. We can do this in many ways, just as there are an infinite different styles of painting, and finding your unique perspective is a step in the process.
The passion of an artist is so fundamental to their existence it’s like breathing. Their in-breath is as they absorb their surroundings , and their out-breath is as they return the gift to creation. In simple terms, a landscape artist might breathe in to observe a vista, and then breathe out paint it. The process keeps them alive, and is as essential as breath. For a social artist, their in-breath is observing, allowing, listening, and understanding and their out-breath is connecting, enriching, inspiring, and enlivening. As with any artist, they seek out opportunities to stretch their capabilities beyond what they could imagine.
One case study for such an opportunity is the conscious rebuilding of personal relationships. Consider the classic married couple as an example- there is an assumption in western culture that once you meet someone you fall in love with, you then get married and have children. This is a cultural norm, and not necessarily the ideal scenario for the people involved, and yet, most couples simply default to what is expected. As a social artist the approach is different, and every element of the relationship is considered, as an artist would mix a paint, with passion and creativity. The palette of a social artist includes elements such as respect, empathy, honor, self care, communication, healthy boundaries, surrender and compassion, and each of these elements is applied with intention and artistry. Making conscious decisions, negotiating your ideal relationship, and then learning to move forward with flexibility and understanding to create a path that really suits your lifestyles and personalities could be a Sistine Chapel to a social artist. Some couples might decide that they want to be monogamous and live a more traditional lifestyle- but that decision becomes conscious, rather than an unspoken expectation, and as years pass, their needs might change, and their relationship adapt to those needs. Alternatively they might discover that they both want to explore a less traditional model, and negotiating what kind of relationship works best for them becomes a lifelong dance of social artistry. By bringing awareness to these aspects of your life, you gain a deeper understanding of how to become more conscious, flexible, and empathic, enhancing your capacities and drawing you ever closer to your true potential as a human being.