Today is the International Women’s Day, also known as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace, dedicated to women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. In some countries it is also Mother’s Day. So this post is about a series of 5 paintings I made dedicated to femininity and rights, the right to Eudaimonia.
These art works are very personal because I have painted myself in relation to this concept of eudaimonia and inspiration came from my immediate environment. Looking around me, at the lives of family members, friends or acquaintances I’ve noticed patterns of fulfillment/happiness that could not be explained by their social and cultural context. I associated this fulfillment with an ancient Greek concept from Aristotle’s ethics, called eudaimonia – a self realization theory which literally translates to “the state of having a good indwelling spirit” or in oher words the capacity for human thriving.
For Aristotle eudaimonia is not a short lived experience of hedonistic nature like pleasurable sensations. “It is more like the ultimate value of your life as lived up to this moment, measuring how well you have lived up to your full potential as a human being. “
Basically what I noticed is that most people experience a volatile state of happiness because they relate it to external factors such as a well paid job, an emotional or physical connection with someone, the feeling of belonging, of being integrated and accepted by a community, a dream vacation etc. Consequently, any type of loss (divorce, children growing up, illness, losing a privilege) disrupts this state of happiness making it hard to recover a sense of self. Sometimes, you don’t lose anything but just change the angle of perception and start seeing life as ordinary and unsatisfying. Hence, the infamous middle age life crisis.
On top of this, cultural or social constraints set expectations that people appropriate without judgement and sometimes unwillingly. So they start identifying with and defying themselves by these labels: marital status, professional status, social status which will set the tune of their lives. A sonata in C major is lived differently than Maluma’s Cuatro Babys. Once, attending a posh diplomatic cultural event, where these labels are worn like medals of honor, a woman asked me who I was. She was asking me, between lines, to legitimize myself: am I Mozart or Maluma? I said I am nobody. I happen to dislike both.
To my mind, in contemporary society finding eudaimonia is building a sense of self outside of what is expected of you, outside a job, family, relationships – the capacity to self-actualize. Self-actualization is thriving and evolution, because it allows people to constantly shift perspectives and maybe start seeing ordinary as extraordinary, to explore the world outside their comfort zone and outgrow stereotypes and collective patterns of thought (the herd mentality). While, there’s no universal recipe to achieving this, I think eudaimonia needs two basic ingredients: childlike curiosity and enthusiasm. Lack of curiosity is like living in a cage with an open door and not going out to see what’s there. Lack of enthusiasm makes for a short fuse…you won’t make it past the door. The most fulfilled people I have met were those who were privileged enough not to have lost their childlike wonder for discovery and exploration.
I hope for a world where more and more women will feel free and safe to find their eudaimonia. For me this art. Making art is a constant exploration and appropriation of the world.
Happy women’s day!