Pursuit of Happiness

I feel that the last seven years of my life have been a search for the elusive ‘happiness’ that we all try to capture in a little bottle, to pull of the shelf and take a swig when we need it. Our assignment for Directed Research this week is to describe three pivotal moments of our lives that have led us on the path we are on today. I am on the path to become a graphic artist, and there are a few key moments in my search that have gotten me here:

Infographics I created to symbolize three pivotal moments.

In 2002 I transferred to NYU to finish my undergraduate degree in Political Science but I was immediately impacted by the vibrant culture, street art and architecture of the city. Street artists like Swoon and Banksy expose truths about the political and corporate culture we live in and that spoke to me very much. I love how the integration of art with the crumbling old building and layer upon layer of posters and paint create a juxtaposition of old and new. Their beautiful illustrations, stencils and pastings collaborate with the building facade to engage the observer in an exploration of the experience of the street. Looking back, moving to New York City is probably one of the most pivotal moments in my life since it has provided inspiration and adventure for the past 8 years.

A Banksy stencil from last week in DUMBO. Side note: the quote on the bottom left was from a girl that wrote it with her lipstick while we were standing there.

Upon graduation in 2004 I decided to put aside my desire to save the world by becoming an environmental lawyer and discover the adventure of the screen and stage. I began an intensive study of film and theater, as well as body and voice technique classes. The study of acting is very much a study of yourself, since the actor’s body and mind is the instrument – much like the guitar is to the musician. I also really enjoy character study, which requires observation of people and situations.

The films I am drawn to are controlled, meditative and searching for meaning in mundane reality. Some film-makers that made an impact on me at this time were Darren Aronofsky, French director Eugene Green, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, Sofia Coppola, and Gus van Sant’s Elephant. Many of these films confront the viewer to examine the limits of boredom, loneliness and beauty of everyday life. They test how much impact can be made with the smallest, most subtle actions

Also at this time I began the practice of yoga, mostly at Jivamukti, and most impacted by the teacher Ruth Lauer-Manenti. One day she told a simple story from Ananda Ma:

A wealthy merchant was traveling on business, and a thief decided to dress as a wealthy merchant and pretend he was traveling with him and steal his money. Every morning the merchant would get up and count his money carefully and tediously, while the thief watched on. Every night the thief would search through the merchants belongings, his clothes, his person even and could not find the money. This went on for many nights. Finally the thief could not continue in this way and he said to the merchant ‘I have to tell you the truth. I have been deceiving you. I only wanted to come with you on this trip in order to steal your money. I have not been able to find it for all of these nights. Please tell me by what magic you have been hiding your money from me.’ The merchant laughed heartily and said ‘From the beginning I had a feeling you had these evil intentions. I hid the money in the best place I knew it would never be found: under your pillow.’

We search everywhere outside of ourselves for happiness, money, love, and peace. Everything we are looking for outside of us is already within. We don’t have to look any further than our own person.

Ruth told our yoga class that there’s no reason for people to be unhappy or dissatisfied with the mundane activities of life, because if you put your spirit into everything you do there is never boredom or dissatisfaction. Even doing the dishes can be a peaceful, happy experience where you simply focus on what you are doing and do not think of anything else. This is beginning to living a peaceful and fulfilled life when the smallest things are savored and considered just as important as the big accomplishments in life.

I learned perspective drawing in the summer of 2006. The insecurity of acting had finally worn on me and I began a job at momAgenda in the fall of that year. Needing to continue on the creative path, graphic design was the perfect blend of business thinking and application of artistic concepts. The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, as well as other classes over the next few years contributed to my development of artistic tools and the belief that I can have a career in graphic design.

These are two drawings I did in 2009 from the course Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain with Betty Edwards.

I’m on the right path now and feel good about it, and have since realized that always asking ‘Am I happy?’ ‘Am I happy?’ causes more unhappiness than just living my life and developing appreciation of what surrounds me.

“One of life’s most fulfilling moments occurs in that split second when the familiar is suddenly transformed into the dazzling aura of the profoundly new…. These breakthroughs are too infrequent, more uncommon than common; and we are mired most of the time in the mundane and the trivial. The shocker: what seems mundane and trivial is the very stuff that discovery is made of. The only difference is our perspective, our readiness to put the pieces together in an entirely new way and to see patterns where only shadows appeared just a moment before.”
-Edward B. Lindaman
Thinking in Future Tense, 1978

Published by Elizabeth Pizzuti

Design, art, and cats mostly

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