Why do we do the things we do?
This question might as well be etched on my skin. Call it curiosity, an obsession or insanity, but every time I decide to do something, I am always greeted with a one-syllable sound in my mind — Why?
Why? Why? Why?
It has its upsides, of course. Simon Sinek has a whole book on the importance of starting with why. In a world as loud and distracting as ours, your why determines your choices and actions. In a field of dust and distractions, it carves out a path. It pulls you out from the throngs of despair and becomes your saving grace. In the brutality of concentration camps, knowing the answer to this three-lettered word helped Viktor Frankl survive the most inhumane conditions under the Nazi regime.
There’s no denying the importance of purpose. But here I am talking about a different kind of why. Not purpose. Not meaning.
I am talking about the why that wants to know if there’s any point to art. It wants to judge, scale and measure– find out what’s worth it and what’s not. It pushes me to think twice before acting on my intuitive yearning. It forces me to consider the result of my actions and stops me if it deems them invaluable.
In short, it’s the voice of society that has somehow been led to believe that it can dictate what’s worthwhile and what’s not.
A few days before we finally flipped the calendar on to the new year, I ordered a journal. Empty sheets bound in a black cover, embossed with the words “Endless possibilities,” and a tiny infinity sign perched on top. I had spent a great deal of time scrolling through Pinterest, admiring the magic that artists such as Noor Unnahar created on the pages of their journal. I wanted to do something similar.
The journal arrived. I ran my fingers through the empty sheets, restless to fill it with colour, with words and expressions.
But just then, I heard a soft whisper that scurried through my mind.
Oh, this wouldn’t turn out perfect. There’s really no point to doing this. Do you really have the time to do this? This really has no productive outcome. Why do you want to do this?
But I silenced the voice. Last evening, I gathered craft paper, scissors and pens, played some music and sat down with my journal. Art for art’s sake, I repeated to myself. Time flew by as I sketched and coloured, bringing life to paper that lay lifeless only a few minutes ago.
After I was done, I felt a sense of joy that was at once faraway yet familiar. I had first met it as a little toddler when my hands smeared the walls with paint. It had been a constant companion through many clumsy poems and funny caricatures. But somewhere along the way, I had pushed it away. It was a broken friendship and I made no amends to fix it. Until last evening.
There’s something so inherently human about wanting to dip your fingers in paint, stroke the blankness of space and marvel at the beauty that has risen out of your unhindered act of spontaneity. Art that is created for the sheer joy of creation. Not for validation, not for everlasting glory, not for praise. Art for the sake of creation, for the joy of creating, for the beauty of expression.
All wisdom points to this state of pure joy that can be experienced only when you allow your self the freedom to exist and create, unfettered by conditioning and questions.
Many times, I have looked at the stars in the sky, heard the sound of the lapping waves and felt the rustle of the wind. But to each them, I have asked — why?
And now they have answered back
Creation for the sake of creation. Love for the sake of love.
Perhaps this is what the stars want to tell me. Perhaps this is what the waves of the ocean whisper. Perhaps this is what the rustle of the wind tells me.
To create, to love, to live only for the sake of it. Only for the joy of it.
It is an act of rebellion.
“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
— Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country