“The aimless life is the constant theme of Zen art of every kind, expressing the artist’s own inner state of going nowhere in a timeless moment…’
I think early November is probably a very good time to meditate on the meaning of Alan Watts’ words. When I think about it, it isn’t merely what one might call the melancholy beauty of Zen art which I love and which I instinctively respond to. It’s also this wonderful idea of the artist’s inner life as ‘going nowhere in a timeless moment’… This idea of living, in a sense, suspended in Time. That’s really what I have felt my whole life. And after reading this quote, I recognized that it is what I truly respond to in the art, the books, the shows I love.
I also recognize the role Nature plays in these scenarios. When one looks at the paintings of the seasons, by the Flemish Renaissance artist Brueghel, for instance… His painting of late fall, of the return of the herds from the mountains. The slate-grey skies, the earthy tones of the landscape: all these elements, too, are an ‘echo’ of the Timelessness Alan Watts speaks of. Essentially, what he is saying is that the ‘aimless life’ is the meditative, the contemplative life. What another author calls ‘the art of lingering’… And where best to linger but in Nature. It is Nature which Grounds us, which allows us to fully and completely inhabit our lives, and even Time itself.
I borrow these ideas from another wonderful author, whom I discovered a few months ago. His name is Byung Chul-Han. He’s a South-Korean born philosopher who teaches in Berlin. And he penned a number of, in my opinion, extraordinary books, one of which is titled The Scent of Time: an Essay on the Art of Lingering. It’s a short volume which is tremendously readable, while also being very profound. It had a huge impact on me, and I would love to tell you more about it!...
Please tune into my upcoming podcast episode titled ''Fragrant Time'' to hear more! :)