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One Meaning of Life
The art for yourself and for other people
"This notion that one's goal in life is to be happy that your own happiness is the goal. I just don't buy it."
Hayao Miyazaki, a Japanese animation director who's famous for the Studio Ghibli movies, rejects the notion of "It's about being yourself."
"Self-satisfied people are boring. We have to push hard and surpass ourselves."
His words feel contrary to many people's opinions about the meaning of life. What's wrong with trying to make yourself happy? Isn't life all about loving who you are, loving the people around you, and doing what makes you happy?
It's those moments when you are being who you are, doing what you love, you feel alive and present in the moment. You just enjoy the pure feelings of joy, happiness, or contentment.
It's probably not that he is rejecting the concept of happiness. He just might not be fond of the notion of chasing it as an end goal. Miyazaki's life is not about himself. He derives meaning by egolessly serving people than himself.
Hayao Miyazaki's art
There are two types of art. The art that's for yourself and the art that's for your audience.
Naval calls it business if you create the art for others.
Genuinely enjoying what you love for its own sake makes you happy. This 'art' could be any activity you do in your life. You just love the experience, and you do it to satisfy yourself.
Then, there's the art for someone else's sake (business). You do it for someone else. Serving something larger than yourself.
"If I can entertain people, maybe I deserve to exist.
I have this repressed need to feel useful."
Hayao Miyazaki might not experience this explicit sense of happiness in every moment. Still, his purpose gives him something more significant than that. He doesn't ponder if he is happy or not, how good of a film he can create, that's what matters to him. His words exemplify that.
"You must push yourself until your nose starts bleeding. And see what you create. Many people can't do it. Most of them can't."
He is dedicated and perfectionistic. This attitude of just serving something other than yourself sounds contrary to the notion of making yourself happy. However, this way of living could be another choice to have meaning in life and be 'happy.' The difference is that the meaning or happiness comes as a by-product of his purpose.
Losing a Sense of Self
This feeling of having your 'self' vanishes when you do what you love, which is the art for yourself. When you purely enjoy something in front of you, you lose track of time, get into the flow state or the zone, and become 'selfless' or 'egoless,' and there remains the experience of it. Like when you play sports, when you enjoy art or music, or when you perform creative tasks.
But, when you are doing something for someone else, you are also selfless. Your motivation is not about you but other people. That could make it easier to get into the flow state where you don't feel your own ego's strong sense. And that's when you're creative and alive the most.
His 'egoless' motivation could be the source of his art and creativity. He could be experiencing the transcendental flow state, which is to say he is immersed in the creative process by serving the purpose of entertaining people. He is probably not aiming for the type of fulfilling experience for himself.
It’s given that he loves what he is doing. He can probably obtain pure joy from the process of making animations itself. But, his mission of serving others transcends his own pursuit of happiness.
A study from the University of California, Berkeley, shows that deliberately trying to be happier in the States doesn’t work, whereas it works in Japan, Taiwan, or Russia. In the individualistic Western societies, people take actions to pursue happiness for themselves. But people in Russia or East Asia try to make things better for their group, paradoxically making themselves happier.
The pure form of doing 'business' for others might also be creating Miyazaki’s lively and powerful art style that excites people.
"I've never really wanted to analyze what I want to do. As soon as I analyze it, it feels worthless."
He just focuses on entertaining people. He wants people to have fun through his animations.
Paradoxically, his way of living a 'good' life is not to pursue it and just do something purposeful.
And probably me contemplating the meaning of life is practically useless. But, at least, I was immersed in the experience writing about it.
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