The beautiful and essential art of the ‘useless’

© Michael Leunig

 

There is a lot of pressure on us these days to be ‘extraordinary’ and to get the best from ourselves. But what does this actually mean? It suggests that we should constantly be striving to be better, with the implication that we should be aiming to be in a different place from the one we currently occupy.

I write often about ways in which we can ‘live our best lives’. And I guess that this too might imply a push for change. But that need not be the case. Sure, there are times when we can recognise that our lives would be improved in some way if we were to take a different approach. But I am also a huge fan of ‘ordinary happiness’. In other words, I believe passionately that it is ok for us to find pleasure in the everyday, to look around us and really see the beauty in everything.

“Happiness is a matter of one’s most ordinary and everyday mode of consciousness being busy and lively and unconcerned with self.” ~ Iris Murdoch

Creativity is, for me, a vital contributor to this ethos. Making my own things, be that through knitting, crochet or any other endeavour is amazingly satisfying and fulfilling, even where the finished item serves no purpose whatsoever. I occasionally dabble in ‘zentangle’ pictures. These mini artworks are nothing more than black and white lines on a small canvass. Yet this process provides a way of switching off, relaxing and focusing only on the task in hand. I do nothing with the pictures other than allow myself to feel immeasurably pleased with the result. I love the way in which the overall images seem to undulate around the page.

The art of Zentangle © Liz Humphreys

 

Below is a short film showcasing another fascinating example of ‘useless’ art giving pleasure. Bruce Gardner produces ‘shiny spheres of mud’ through his practice of Hikaru Dorodango. Even just watching someone else create something beautiful can be restorative. But of course, it is always open to us to give it a try. If you fancy having a go yourself, here’s a step by step guide. 🙂