My choice, however, is to forgo P40,000 from teaching this summer for a non-monetized but essential cause. I envision this summer as my opportunity to prepare ten artworks for my third solo in Manila. Since several years ago, my summer is allotted for my art-making or poem writing. A year ago, I joined a regional literary fellowship in exchange for teaching. This year, my focus is as enjoyable—painting. A few days ago, I bought canvas, wood and acrylic paints for my endeavor. I already finished a contemporary composition of fishes rendered in fresh and explosive colors. To my amazement, my experiment works: my expression has a unique voice as it exudes only the forms of my subjects in myriad hues, complemented by the background. This is another veering away from the flow in the flux of contemporary art. To date, I incrementally came up with my fourth piece for exhibition. My materials need not be that expensive for the creative process is more valuable than the use of such.
Talking about art-making, many misunderstand maybe because they are very pragmatic to equate the value of living just in economic or material standards. The human being, however, is a composite being with a finite physical body yet driven by a spirit that has boundless imagination and that demands nothing less than the infinite. Only human beings can conceive of and aspire towards the infinite. Animals have no idea of it whatsoever. This is the reason why material goods, which diminish when shared and which no one can amass in infinite quantity, cannot by themselves bring deep and lasting human happiness.
The spiritual, on the other hand, multiplies when shared. Knowledge, friendship, enthusiasm, cooperation, kindness, generosity, devotion to a cause, love and compassion, and creative energy inspire others with the same. The potential for individuals to develop these qualities in themselves is boundless. There is no scarcity of resources for spiritual, non-material goals.
In this light, we can understand why individuals and communities which have devoted their lives to causes and activities that transcend limited selfish, material goals have low rates of violence, higher than average life spans, and the highest levels of happiness. Howard Hughes, the multi-billionaire, died a very unhappy man, while Mahatma Gandhi, who had only his loincloth, pair of eyeglasses and spinning wheel as material possessions, died serenely happy. I choose the higher path.
Motives explain our choices. If the motive is intrinsic rewards or those generated by the process of work itself, we do the work for its own sake because the very process of doing it already gives us satisfaction. Whereas, if we have extrinsic rewards as motives, we work for the product of work, external to us. They may mean salary or benefits—the motive of many. Men are happiest when working with intrinsic rewards. The human being is happiest when he enjoys the very process of working. Only in doing this can he experience a sense of self-transcendence because of the infinite, creative potential of what he is doing, and thus immensely gratifying to the human spirit.
I get intrinsic rewards from certain activities. These are activities that grant the individual plenty of opportunities for creative-aesthetic involvement, such as play, games and sports, artistic activities like story-telling, poetry, painting, sculpting, drama, singing, dancing, crafts, film production, designing computer software, scientific invention, and other types of behavior that allow for expression of individual talent and release of tension.
On the contrary many contemporary, highly industrialized societies are havens for consumerist self-indulgence and narcissism, confining personal identity into the ever-narrowing confines of quasi-solipsistic sense of privacy and isolation. Is it any wonder that hypertension, diseases of stress and suicide tend to be higher in the most consumerist societies, especially if we consider that here, the vast majority of people (not being extremely wealthy) will experience the greatest frustration in not being able to acquire the widest variety of goods available in the market to quiet their infinite temptations and cravings? To make matters worse, advertising companies constantly drum up messages that increase desires and wants, rather than affirm eco-humanistic spiritual values and real human needs.
For more persuasive reasons, I will not regret foregoing my additional pay that could have been earned through teaching this summer. I see it as an inadequate medication expense for the hypertensions that I may incur from going with the contemporary consumerist culture. On the other hand, I seize opportunities for the harvest of creativity because their rewards are exponentially greater.