A few months ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Liz Gilbert speak at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco. It was a conversation guided by Lisa Congdon, a fine print and graphic artist. As I post more quotes and selections from her talk, I'll be tagging them all under Elizabeth Gilbert for easy finding.
Human beings are artists.
Before the age of mass media, by which you can passively sit and be entertained, the only way to get through the dark, hard times was to make stuff. And everyone did.
My grandparents were dairy farmers who lived in the depression. They were literally almost losing the farm every single month, and they had to deal with sickness and poverty and way too many kids. And they were Swedish Lutherans who lived in Nothern Minnesota. You can't get a more grim life than that. At the same time, they were artists, and they made things.
My grandfather made beautiful silver jewelry. My grandmother made everything, and everything she made was beautiful.
They helped to provide me with what I think the definition of art is, which is anything that you make that is more beautiful than it needs to be. My grandmother made quilts because it was cold, and they couldn't afford to buy them, and it was also a really good use of rags. All of those things are very pragmatic. There's no reason those quilts needed to be as beautiful as they were. She could've just slapped some rags together and thrown 'em on top of her kids and been like, "Goodnight!"
But instead, she spent months on it because it pleased her. It was necessary to her happiness because it's what we are. I feel like the entire Universe is a big creative project that's on going. There's this static state version of the Universe, which is the sort of Biblical idea of it, which says, "The Universe was created and then it stopped. And we're just rattling around inside of it." And then there's the actual truth about the Universe, which is that it's being created.
It's creating itself and it wants to be more complex, more beautiful, bigger, bolder, stranger, and so it's constantly working with new form. So literally every single piece of energy in the Universe is going in the direction of expansion, invention, creativity, the new, strange combinations that make no sense - this is what's happening in real time.
That's what the river and the current of energy of the Universe are. Whenever we step into that and make stuff and participate in that we are healthy because we're being backed up by literally all the energy of the Universe. And whenever we step out of that, and stop being creative, and become passive, the reason we get sick is because we're going against the entire grain of the Universe.
It's unnatural not to make art. It's no wonder you feel heavy and depressed and lethargic when you stop your creative flow. It's because you're in the wrong direction. There's a field that's going this way, and you're going the wrong way or no way at all. And so when you enter into that stream, you're healed. You're healed by everything else that is also going in that direction.