“Life is not an exact science, it is an art” (Samuel Butler).
THE RIVALRY BETWEEN ART AND SCIENCE IS AS OLD AS HUMAN CIVILIZATION. Both of these endeavors are good, and despite what their respective advocates might say, neither can claim the other is unimportant or nonessential. It is a fact, however, that most individuals tend to prefer one more than the other, and the argument will probably never be settled. But just for today, let’s focus on some good things that can be said about “artistry.”
I believe that all of us, at some point in our lives, would do well to learn some skill or craft that is measured by its artistry rather than its utility. If nothing else, the discipline required to learn an art would be a good thing to experience. But also, there is a kind of joy that comes from artistic work that can’t be gotten from any other source. If you haven’t tasted this joy, I hope you will do so before you die.
Whether or not any of us ever become artists in the literal sense, it would be good for us to adopt the same attitude toward life that the artist has toward his work. For one thing, we need to have the artist’s pride of craftsmanship, aspiring to excellence and wanting to do the best work we’re capable of. Like the artist, we should strive for beauty and not be content with mere correctness. And finally, it should be the hearts of people, and not just their minds, that we want to stir.
But if life is more an art than a science, in what sense is that true? Many things could be said, but let’s sum it up this way: life is not as precise as science. In science, known processes are predictable — if you control the variables, the outcome is assured. But we can never reduce life to that kind of precision, no matter how logical we try to be. There are just too many variables. So in daily living, our decisions often have to be made in the same way an artist makes decisions.
Never think for a moment that the “art of living” doesn’t have to be learned or that it comes naturally. If you know a serious artist, you know he or she works hard at what they do. They strive to improve their craft, honing it by constant work. Art is not easy, and neither is life. The artistry of it won’t improve if we don’t work at it.
“The art of right living is like all arts: it must be learned and practiced with incessant care” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).