Raison d’Être

Food for Thought

This is “aglio e olio” I made with fresh pasta, garlic, olive oil, lemon, parsley, salt, black pepper, and red chili flakes. I love this dish partly because of its simplicity. In music, I prefer simple instrumentation, like solo piano and string quartet. I’ve never been a fan of big orchestral pieces. In visual arts, I like minimalist aesthetic and conceptual art that involves barely any work to create, like readymades.

In my view, the ultimate object of art is the subject. An apple you picked off of a tree has no subject, it’s a pure object, but combining it with something else imbues it with your subjectivity. Who you are begins to come through. But there appears to be a sweet spot beyond which adding more elements does not add anything to the subject. If anything, the subject can be drowned in the complexity. One could, for instance, transcribe an orchestral piece for piano without taking anything away from the subject.

If your goal is to find your subjectivity, your life is a process of elimination, not of accumulation. Most fine artists only know how to create their own work. Commercial artists, on the other hand, are highly versatile, able to imitate a wide range of aesthetic styles. The latter is the assumption on which our education system is built. It is designed to equip students with a wide range of survival skills. However, what it does not teach them is why they should survive in the first place.

You might think they are too young for such a big question. It’s actually the opposite. They know, even if they cannot articulate it in words. It’s our education, in fact, that drowns their raison d’être or ikigai by adding more and more ingredients to the dish for the sake of survival. It’s a form of fearmongering: “If you don’t learn this, you won’t be able to…” and so on.

Grownups tell them, “If you put your mind to it, anything is possible!” and prepare them for it. In my view, a better question is, “What am I meant to be?” And, you gradually eliminate the ingredients that do not contribute to the answer.