When you’re a part of the VAWAA team, you’re coming across different artforms, crafts and creative approaches from all around the world everyday, as we scout out new artists and guide people on creative apprenticeships. Along with all this inspirational intake, there comes new perspectives and new ways of seeing the world.
I was recently introduced to the Japanese concept of ‘Ikigai’. You may have heard of it, I’ve seen some infographics making the rounds on instagram. But in case you haven’t, Ikigai is summarized as “a motivating force; something or someone that gives a person a sense of purpose or a reason for living”. It makes sense that there would be a lot of interest in ikigai at this time. As we move on from the pandemic, many of us are more aware of the fragility of human life and are getting back to really living again after feeling held in a strange limbo.
What’s so great about Ikigai is that it helps us to identify that mysterious ‘motivating force’ by asking four questions - What do you like to do? What are you good at? What can you get paid for? What does the world need?
It’s that last question that really puts me in a reflective mood.
“What does the world need?”
This element of service is one that I find particularly interesting. I don’t remember being asked this by the career advisor in high school. Ikigai reminds us that in order to live a life of purpose, we have to take into consideration interconnectedness. As well as looking within, we also look outwards at the state of the wider world and consider the ways in which we can contribute to it.
While I don’t remember being encouraged to think in this holistic way by my school, I did have my parents and their friends to look up to; A small community of artists working to share old wisdom stories through theater and storytelling. I was always privy to not only their successes but also the difficulties and struggles they faced.
When living with purpose and trying to contribute something beneficial to the world we have to accept that we will always be moving through phases of ease and phases of difficulty. The goal isn’t excessive material wealth and comfort - the goal is to do something that aligns with and is fulfilling to our inner world.
Growing up in the age of the internet where many of my generational peers have become rich and famous often with minimal initial effort, or through collaborating with brands without regard for moral and ethical implications, the idea of what success is became a bit blurred. With social media it’s too easy to compare lives, to focus on material gain and have what you lack highlighted.
Thankfully I’ve been able to re-orient myself by focusing on the elevation of thought and imagination that my parent’s work has inspired in audiences and now through exposure to all these incredible VAWAA artists. The dedication to craft means surrendering to always being a student. It means overcoming obstacles in the learning process and experiencing some discomfort, a sense of constriction, when doing so.
Constriction, expansion, constriction, expansion. Like breathing, and like birth, it’s a natural rhythm echoing throughout the universe. Now when I see videos of luxurious house tours and indulgent celebrity instagrams, I don’t see anything particularly aspirational - instead I often feel as though I’m looking at something that has gone stagnant and I’m left with a feeling of anxiety.
Living while being truly creative means going through difficult phases. When you’re creating a garden, those seeds have to push up through dirt and soil in order to eventually bloom. I’m so grateful to art everyday because I know that when struggles arise, they’re an opportunity for growth and self improvement. When we better ourselves we have more to give to the world.
Written by VAWAA team member, Kat Ali