What Is Art?

Art is something that plays a part in everybody’s life. Anyone, from any walk of life, can make or appreciate art. But what, exactly, is it?

There are several ways of thinking about art.

For example, it is that stuff that you go to see at a museum. From the paintings hanging on the walls to the sculptures on pedestals, you can go and look at Art, with a capital “A”.

But it is more than that, of course. At the museum gift shop, you can buy a print of some of the pieces, and hang them on your wall at home. Surely, a reproduction of a work of art is still art, right?

You might buy a painting from an artist who is not a household name. Or you might even paint something yourself. All those are examples of artwork. So it would seem that the pedigree of the person producing the work is not what determines if it is art.

Does intention matter? If I sit down at an easel, with a paint brush, I can produce a painting. The finished product might not be very good, but it is an effort of creation.

However, let’s say I find an elaborate spider-web in the morning, glistening with dew. Is that art? The spider that spun the web did so as an act of creation, but didn’t intend to make artwork — it was just following a biological imperative. Maybe I’m so impressed, I take a picture. Does the act of photography make it more or less artistic?

Perhaps only the appreciation matters. If someone appreciates something as being aesthetically pleasing, is that thing automatically a work of art? But doesn’t that mean that anything can be so classified? And if that is true, does that devalue what the word “art” even means?

Related questions: How important is the artist to art? Art: create or consume? When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone?

How Do You Justify Your Existence?

Author Isaac Asimov wrote a series of mystery stories about a group called the Black Widowers. In nearly every story, a question was asked of a guest character: How do you justify your existence?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘Is happiness the most important purpose in life?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘How do you define success?’


In the stories, the answer to this question always leads to a mystery or a puzzle of some sort being presented and eventually solved. In real life, of course, there probably will not be a mystery. But we can still have the discussion.

So how, dear reader, would you answer this question? What is your justification for your time on this earth? The question is simple, but the answer may not be.

Related questions: What gives you purpose? Why are we here? How do you judge yourself? What do you do that matters?

What Is Your Life About?

I recently made a mistake, one that I have been making since I was very young. Someone asked me about the book I am currently reading. Was I enjoying it? And what was it about?

By way of answer, I started to provide the basic plot of the book. Afterward, I mentally berated myself for making the basic mistake of conflating the plot — what happens — with what it is about. The point.

But then I started to realize that in my life, I often do the same thing. There is the everyday plot of my life: I got up, had breakfast, went to work, etc. These are the things that happen over the course of the days, weeks, and years of my life.

However, these events are not what my life is about.

It is true, of course, that the two can be related. In a novel, the plot can help to highlight the point of the book. It can be used, along with characterization, symbolism, and other writers tricks — to illuminate the purpose. But they are certainly not the same thing.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How do you define success?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘Is happiness the most important purpose in life?’


During the weekly meetings Michael and I have to discuss our lives and come up with the week’s questions for Intellectual Roundtable, too often I fall back on the plot of my life during our conversation. I did this thing. An event happened to me. I went here, read this, talked to so-and-so. It is an easy shorthand, to summarize the week that was.

Which, then, raises the question: What is your life about? How often do you think about the meaning, the purpose, the larger picture, of the book you are currently reading. Or, indeed, of your own life?

Related questions: Is happiness the most important purpose in life? How can we encourage meaningful conversation? What gives you purpose? What are you reading right now?

Is There A Principle According To Which You Try To Live Your Life?

Some people try to follow the Golden Rule as much as they can. Others try living each day to the fullest. Still others work to give more than they receive.

There are many principles you can choose to practice habitually. Some believe that if you don’t have such a code, life guides you rather than you guiding your life.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘Is happiness the most important purpose in life?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How do you define success?’


Do you have a principle that governs your actions? If so, what is it, and how has it helped you in day-to-day experiences? Has it helped you in personal growth? Does living your life according to a principle make life easier? Or do you accept that choosing to live life this way requires sacrifice, but that’s okay? If you don’t have a principle to guide your life, is there one (or more) that you would like to have the willpower to practice?

So, have at it, dear readers: Is there a principle according to which you try to live your life?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? How do you set priorities? To what should we aspire? What five ideals are most important to you?

What Would You Do If You Had More Time?

Let’s try a thought experiment. Pretend that there is an eighth day in the week, or an extra hour in the day. What would you do with more time?

Many people feel they are too busy, that their days are too full. Between work, family, social obligations, and so on, there isn’t much extra time for hobbies or exploring other interests.

This starts at an early age, as school work can take up a lot of our childhood years. For many, there is a relentless pressure to get good grades, in order to get into a good college. This sets you up for graduate school, law school medical school, or the like.

It doesn’t get any better once you get into the working world, as a young employee will often be expected to work long hours in order to get established (and pay off school debt).

Add in a spouse and some kids, and every hour of the day can easily be taken up with one chore or another.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘Are we too busy?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘What are our responsibilities to others?’


But what if it wasn’t that way? What if you had some time every day to an interest of some sort? What if there was an extra day to spend on an extra project? How would you spend that time?

Maybe you would write a novel. You might get your friends together to film an amateur movie. Perhaps you would host a regular party for friends, or learn to paint. Who knows? You might watch more TV.

What would you do if you had more time?

Related questions: Are we too busy? If you had an assistant, what would you have them do? What are your favorite hobbies? What is time?