In an age defined by instant gratification, the realities of a memory erased or the end of a journey bear a meager sadness. Collectively, it seems as though we overcompensate for fear of being forgotten and a life unfulfilled. The relentless pace of seeking is a testament to the human spirit’s desire to find profound significance in a world that is much larger than life itself. I’ve thought often about what a fulfilled life looks like for the thrill-seeking creative; how the art we create may transcend and endure much like we do. I found my answers in the essential philosophy of Impermanence.
In my quest for rationalization, it left me with yet another question: Should the impermanence of art bear a weight of sadness?
What Is Impermanence?
Impermanence (also known as Anicca or Anitya) is an essential Buddhist doctrine that dares to say, “Everything changes, and nothing stays the same.” A central tenant in Eastern philosophies, impermanence aims to teach us to embrace the transience of all things. Memories fade away. Materials wither and decompose. Experiences end; yet, we cling to immortalizing time and space. It’s not all our fault though. We exist in a time of relentless pace. Embracing impermanence and living in the moment is easier said than done. We’ve all been guilty of this—I know for certain I have.
I am a Gen Z woman, and I wear this honor proudly. I grew up in the gilded age of tech innovation. I remember the iOS 7 update that launched the Apple aesthetic we know and love. I remember when Twitter functioned through text, and everyone shared their every thought in 180 characters. Of course, Instagram gave us free rein to take a picture of anything with a witty caption. My generation was raised to immortalize every moment with a snapshot or a tweet. Shamelessly, I can admit I do take pictures of beautiful plates of food because, much like the analogy of “if a tree falls…”, if I don’t make a post about it, did it really happen?
The answer is yes.
The more I’ve grown, the more I have begun to realize that life is not reserved to carousels and character limits. Impermanence has cemented itself in my existence and my creations. Too often, the life of an artist can exist at the same pace as the rest of the world. With social media, there are newfound avenues of engagement that seem too overwhelming to master. Creating for engagement, survival, and even for the sake of creating can begin to feel like a chore. We feel as though we must canonize our work with polaroids or curate global experiences for fear of being forgotten.
So, how do we see the beauty in impermanence while embracing the lifecycle of creation?
Impermanence and Your Artist Identity: A Mantra for Your Inner Creative
As artists, we could learn a great deal about the beauty of our art and the lives we could lead if we embraced impermanence. The Dalai Lama said, "Awareness of impermanence and appreciation of our human potential will give us a sense of urgency that we must use every precious moment.” For VAWAA artist Nancy Basket, her decades-long training in indigenous basket weaving is an ode to the power of impermanence and ancestral knowledge.
The history of indigenous practices has been under threat for centuries. Basket’s dedication to cherishing the practices of her ancestors in the face of intellectual and creative extermination is a testament to the profound conduit of human emotion and ideas. When we are aware of the imminent impacts of impermanence, we begin to use her as a muse in our creations.
Art, in its myriad forms, has been used as a tool to immortalize the ephemeral. For many, the act of creation is our driving force for spiritual fulfillment. Whether you are studying the meditative art of Japanese ink painting in Tokyo or expanding your spice tolerance in Goa, India, art freezes moments in time that otherwise would succumb to the incessant march of life itself. Regardless, when these experiences are over, we once again return to the lives we lead—more fulfilled than when we began our path to creation. This is the beauty of impermanence.
To Take on Your Journey of Embracing the Ephemeral…
As we navigate the rhythms of impermanence and creation, we will constantly be met with the beauty of our brief artistic endeavors that mirror the transient nature of life itself. In an age where the immediacy of digital platforms often dictate our sense of worth, the impermanence of art need not bear the weight of sadness. Instead, it serves as a reminder that, like the changing seasons, the ebb and flow of our creative expressions are part of the natural rhythm of existence.
Does it mean we stop capturing our artistic essence through social media? No. (Baby steps.) But I challenge us to create for the sake of creating. Embrace your artistic urges. Unsubscribe to the irrational pressures of today and live a life fulfilled with art as your center. Live intentionally. Create consciously.
Impermanence lends us solace and a sense of direction for the endless possibilities that appear when we appreciate our vast and innate potential. As we welcome the tenants of impermanence into our lives, we will feel the urgency of seizing the precious moments of creation. Though this time is forever fleeting, the cycle of creation and the embrace of impermanence propel us forward, reminding us that every precious moment is a canvas awaiting our human genius.
Written by Tyler Pharr