Transience and Acceptance

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Transience and Acceptance

Introduction

The theme of transience has featured in art for a very long time. Essentially, transience means finding beauty and self-healing in imperfection, incompletion, and impermanence (Gray, 2011). It is based on the principle that life in many aspects reflects impermanence suggesting the inevitability of dying or ending. Thus, in a much as something is beautiful today, it is inevitable that such a thing will come to its end sooner or later. While some regard transience as a pessimistic approach or view to life, psychologists consider it as a necessary view of life that when accepted, can help give an individual personal fulfillment (Gray, 2011). Furthermore, transience allows individuals to cherish and glorify life and different things they encounter and those which they are able to build a connection or a relationship with. The acceptance of transience gives life and art a deeper meaning as it allows people to reflect on art and life in general from a different, meaningful perspective (Gray, 2011).

Human life, in itself, is made up of several transient stages that people go through as they approach adulthood and old age. For example, one grows from being an infant into a child, a teenager, a young adult, an adult and then an elderly person. During each of these stages, one goes through a lot of changes that definitely impact their personality, behavior, ideals, and their general outlook on life. However, in as much as people realize that growing up in life is a process comprising of several brief stages, it does not occur to most people as to the need for appreciating each stage in life (Gray, 2011). For example, the younger generation is mostly seen as being intolerable to the older generation while the older generation does not show any appreciation of the fact that they, too, were part of a younger generation at some point in their lives and exhibited the same behaviors. In most cases, people are often overwhelmed when they realize or become conscious of the fact that they have in deed become older (Gray, 2011). Thus, one is forced to adopt new behaviors and ideals while discarding the older way of thinking and behaving. In the end, one loses or becomes detached from the things that were once dear to them.

Therefore, based on this example of growing up, it is clear that human beings need to remain conscious of the fact that life, in most cases, is like a passing storm. Therefore, they need to make conscious decisions each day to how they live their lives to avoid being overwhelmed by the things around them and the beauty of the life they live at one stage in time. This is because sooner or later, such a lifestyle will change when it dawns on the individual that they will have grown older and need to change their behavior to live a different lifestyle (Gray, 2011). Thus, the most important aspect of life is that people need to make conscious decisions about how they live their lives, interacting with other people and things around them on a daily basis. Therefore, it is important that one remains contended with whatever they have in life at any particular stage in their development. This is the only way one can achieve personal fulfillment and personal healing (Gray, 2011).

From my personal perspective, I have been able to realize that gratification of beauty or the good life and all relative things associated with it is meaningless and indeed, vanity. Nothing lasts forever, however good or important it is to someone. Therefore, it is pointless to keep holding onto things that have passed on or behaviors and items that we once cherished or were important to us. It is critical that one realizes that when other things pass on, new opportunities to love life better often arise.

Psychological understanding of Transience  

Sigmund Freud, widely considered as the father of modern psychology, is one of the prominent psychologists to have written on the subject matter of transience. In his essay titled ‘On Transience,’ Freud discusses a summer visit to the countryside with his friends, one of whom was a poet (Unwerth, 2006). While walking around the countryside, they were absorbed in the beauty of the scenery. However, the poet expressed concerns that such natural beauty was bound to extinct in the winter and was only short lived. It was like all human beauty or anything that man will ever create or has created before, it is all finite as it all must come to an end (Unwerth, 2006). The poet was very much disturbed by this fact that such great beauty was bound to end at some point, either due to weather changes in the winter of due to human activities such as wars. Based on this anecdote, Sigmund Freud introduces the concept of transience and his acceptance of it. He opines that while many people may acknowledge that certain things are fine and are bound to end, they often find it difficult to accept the fact that even those things that look perfect and beautiful are also bound to become extinct (Unwerth, 2006). The desire for humans to grant immortality to certain things is only out of their selfish interests and an unwillingness to accept the fact that everything is finite.

Freud acknowledges that while it was easier for him to accept and believe in the transience of things, his friends like the poet, found it difficult to accept that the beauty that looked so perfect to them would at some point vanish. However, he accepts that such an unwillingness to accept transience stems from powerful or strong emotions that people have when they become attached or attracted to things that look perfect to them (Unwerth, 2006). From a psychological perspective, Freud inferred that this strong emotion that distracted people from accepting transience emanates from a ‘revolt in their minds against mourning (Unwerth, 2006).’ He states that the loss that would come from someone experiencing the pain as a result of the demise of the beauty of the natural scene and the perfection of art can be equated to the pain of losing a loved one. Furthermore, while mourning may seems natural thing to a layman as it is as a result of experiencing pain after losing soothing than one once cherished so much, psychologists have a deeper understanding of the whole notion of mourning. According to Freud, psychologists see mourning as a riddle, a phenomenon that is difficult to explain, but whose obscurities can be traced back in one’s development (Unwerth, 2006).

Humans have in themselves a strong capacity to fall in love, often called the libido. This capacity to love or the libido is usually directed towards one’s ego in their early stages of development. However, as they continue to grow, is diverted into other objects, that eventually become part of someone’s ego. Therefore, is these objects are lost or destroyed; the human capacity to love (libido) becomes liberated. As a result, the liberated libido can either be diverted to other objects or in a sense, return to an individual’s ego albeit temporarily (Unwerth, 2006). The detachment of the libido from the external objects that it had been directed to is a very painful process, which eventually leads to mourning. Freud notes that mourning also comes to an end, once the libido becomes liberates and is free to move onto other objects to replace the objects one once loved.  

The relation between mourning and loss of loved objects is a very important aspect of understanding transience. Mourning creates melancholy and depression as one experiences pain due to the loss of things and objects that they have loved for some time (Unwerth, 2006). This becomes even more difficult to bear if one had not considered the fact that such an object would at some point come to its demise. Therefore, the concept of transience is important as it creates a phenomenon of self-healing by encouraging individuals to appreciate the fact that everything is finite and must come to an end after its brief stint and regardless of its perfect state or beauty (Feaver, 2002).

Transience and Acceptance

People who fail to appreciate and accept transience often keep holding onto older things without the knowledge that everything is finite and keeps changing. One can hold onto something, while in the real sense, as time goes, these things keep changing and adopting new forms. So, holding onto something does not help because it may have adopted a new form as time goes by (Feaver, 2002). The failure of an individual to get a long and accept to move on to greater things will often lead them to melancholy, a state of depression that is bound to have a negative impact on the person. Therefore, transience mandates each person to accept change.

Accepting transience has its own benefits to individuals. For example, transience helps one to become more conscious of themselves and their environment. Transience increases conscious awareness by empowering people to accept change, to become more open minded, and realize that everything around them is finite (Feaver, 2002). Furthermore, consciousness is increased when people learn to accept change and to appreciate everything they connect or interact with at ant particular time. Through accepting transience, one realizes that there is need to work hard, realize their potential at any given time as they will not have any opportunity to do so again once the moment passes on to the next stage.

Transience also helps to sharpen an individual’s observational skills. By accepting transience, one becomes self-conscious and develops a keen interest in whatever is around them. It gives people the desire to have a deeper understanding of life by trying to comprehend and appreciate the things that people interact with from time to time (Feaver, 2002). Therefore, acceptance of transience is an important step in trying to understand reality by being very observant and paying closer attention on one’s environment.

Most importantly, however, is the fact that acceptance of transience helps to cultivate presence, which allows one to experience a deeper sense of inner peace. For example, once someone understands that life is characterized by imperfection, impermanence, and incompletion, they will not be threatened by the fact that whatever they cherish most, or even their own lives, will not last forever (Feaver, 2002). Thus, people learn to accept that life is finite for every person and that everything must come to an end. Therefore, no one will be more concerned about the future, but will in fact focus on making sense of the present life (Feaver, 2002). This realization creates an authentic connection between a person and their inner self as well as strengthening their relations with external reality. Inner peace is also realized when one accepts change and strays from holding onto things that can bring depression and melancholy.

Transience and the Arts

Painters, writers, and other artists have reflected on the transient nature of life in many different ways. Thus, transience has formed a huge portion of major themes in art and literature.  For the most part, human life and its finite nature is often contrasted with the truths and beliefs that are taught in religion, which are believed to have the everlasting nature. For painters, they express the phenomenon of transience in different ways (Bernard and Dawson, 2006). For example, some artists use skulls, soap bubbles, extinguished candles, and hour glasses to express the transient nature of human life. Skulls remind the audience of the certainty of death while bubbles imply the short-lived nature of human life (Bernard and Dawson, 2006). The brevity if life can also be signified by smoke, hour glasses, and watches. On the other hand, painters use musical elements to indicate the ephemeral nature of life. Similarly, elements such as Fruit, flowers and butterflies can also be interpreted to mean the momentary nature of human life.

The genre of vanitas in painting is mostly known for its expression of transience. This is a broad category of different symbolic works of art that are mainly associated with still life images, which began to emerge in the 16th and 17th centuries. Vanitus is derived from the Latin word, vanus, which can be translated to mean empty. Thus, vanitas category of paintings comprises of various paintings that showcase the emptiness of life in the sense that everything is short-lived (Bernard and Dawson, 2006). This concept of perspective originates from the traditional Christian religious teachings that earthly or worldly life is worthless as humans need to focus more on what will come in the after-life while in heaven. Several artists have been on the forefront of promoting the theme of transience in visual arts. However, the most prominent one among them is Lucian Freud (Bernard and Dawson, 2006).

Lucian Freud and Depiction of Transience

Lucian Freud (1922-2011) is one of the most famous British painters and one of the most prominent artists of his time. He is widely known for his impastoed portraits and figure paintings. A majority of his works are known to have a psychological approach that explores the relationship between the artist and the model on the image (Bateman, 2006). Lucian Freud is a grandson of Sigmund Freud, the renowned German psychologist. His family moved to London in 1933 in an attempt to escape Nazism as he has a Jewish background he later became a British citizen in 1939 and began his painting careers in the English capital. He was instrumental in the formation of “The School of London", which comprised of a group of artists that were contemporaries in London and knew each other very well, besides employing a similar stylistic approach to their paintings (Bateman, 2006). Among other members of the School of London include Francis Bacon, Reginald Gray, Robert Colquhoun, Michael Andrews, and Leon Kossoff, among others.

Lucian Freud is celebrated as one of the most popular painters who managed to keep the movement of figurative painters alive during his time. His paintings are known to captivate audiences by the way the express depth and texture of the bodies being painted as well as their ability to depict the thickness and inner psychic truth of the subjects painted (Bateman, 2006). Thus, the physicality of his works is very intriguing and powerful for person interested in understanding the overlapping areas of psychoanalysis and art as well as the close relationship between mind and body or psyche and soma (Bernard and Dawson, 2006).

This essay explores some of the major themes in his paintings such as abjection, skin, death, mourning, and the body as well as the use of painting as therapy to provide healing to individuals that are drawn in to the cartography of the flesh. Thus, for both Lucian and his grandfather, Sigmund Freud, transience is an important aspect of understanding the meaning of life (Bateman, 2006). They note that transience, in fact, does not eradicate the power of art of life in general, or in any way affect its value or the nature of its beauty (Bernard and Dawson, 2006).

In  some of Freud's paintings, such as the portraits of nudes, more especially female nudes, there seems to be an evocation of abjection or the corporeal mother that must be symbolically debarred for the subject to be realized or to come into being. However, instead of staging a 'rite of defilement', it creates a sense of fascination that captivates and draws the audience into the image (Bernard and Dawson, 2006). In addition, the 'glare' showcased by the portraits refers to both the external sources of light that are reflected on bodily surfaces, as well as the glare that is associated with looking or staring at something.  Thus, the paintings, at once abject and beautiful, seem to be staring back at the audience, but not from the eyes of their subjects, from the skin itself (Bateman, 2006). There is a strong focus on the skin in Freud’s paintings, which is seen as the ultimate source of interaction with the audience, rather than the face of the models or individuals painted. Most of Freud's subjects in his paintings were often various people in his life such as friends, fellow painters, close family, lovers, and children (Bernard and Dawson, 2006).

Conclusion

In conclusion, painters, writers, and other artists have reflected on the transient nature of life in many different ways. Thus, transience has formed a huge portion of major themes in art and literature.  For the most part, human life and its finite nature is often contrasted with the truths and beliefs that are taught in religion, which are believed to have the everlasting nature. For painters, they express the phenomenon of transience in different ways. For example, some artists use skulls, soap bubbles, extinguished candles, and hour glasses to express the transient nature of human life. Transience can be described as the process of finding beauty and self-healing in imperfection, incompletion, and impermanence. It is based on the principle that life in many aspects reflects impermanence suggesting the inevitability of dying or ending. Thus, in a much as something is beautiful today, it is inevitable that such a thing will come to its end sooner or later.

From my personal perspective, I have been able to realize that gratification of beauty or the good life and all relative things associated with it is meaningless and indeed, vanity. Nothing lasts forever, however good or important it is to someone. Therefore, it is pointless to keep holding onto things that have passed on or behaviors and items that we once cherished or were important to us. It is critical that one realizes that when other things pass on, new opportunities to love life better often arise.

The relation between mourning and loss of loved objects is a very important aspect of understanding transience. Mourning creates melancholy and depression as one experiences pain due to the loss of things and objects that they have loved for some time. This becomes even more difficult to bear if one had not considered the fact that such an object would at some point come to its demise. Therefore, the concept of transience is important as it creates a phenomenon of self-healing by encouraging individuals to appreciate the fact that everything is finite and must come to an end after its brief stint and regardless of its perfect state or beauty.

People who fail to appreciate and accept transience often keep holding onto older things without the knowledge that everything is finite and keeps changing. One can hold onto something, while in the real sense, as time goes, these things keep changing and adopting new forms. So, holding onto something does not help because it may have adopted a new form as time goes by. The failure of an individual to get a long and accept to move on to greater things will often lead them to melancholy, a state of depression that is bound to have a negative impact on the person. Therefore, transience mandates each person to accept change.

Accepting transience has its own benefits to individuals. For example, transience helps one to become more conscious of themselves and their environment. Transience increases conscious awareness by empowering people to accept change, to become more open minded, and realize that everything around them is finite. Furthermore, consciousness is increased when people learn to accept change and to appreciate everything they connect or interact with at ant particular time. Through accepting transience, one realizes that there is need to work hard, realize their potential at any given time as they will not have any opportunity to do so again once the moment passes on to the next stage. 

References

Bateman, N. (2006). Freud at work. Lucian Freud in Conversation with Sebastian Smee, London, Jonathan Cape, Random House.

Bernard, B. and Dawson, D. (2006). Freud at Work: Lucian Freud in Conversation with Sebastian Smee. Knopf

Feaver, W. (2002). Lucian Freud. Tate.

Gray, J. (2011).The Immortalization Commission: The Strange Quest to Cheat Death. Penguin Books Limited.

Unwerth, M. . (2006). Freud's requiem: Mourning, memory and the invisible history of a summer walk. London: Continuum.

sheldon

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