Can art (or culture) engender a sense of contentment?

Can we use external stimuli to lead us into the mu state? (I am using mu here to refer to that place of noble silence, where we are present but there is no-one there (I realise that this clarification may not have helped)).

I will cut a very long story short. We can attach external stimuli (images, sounds, smells) to mental states - I do it all the time with music. We can even engage in a join the dots exercise - this kind of music makes me feel calm, this new piece is interesting, I listen to it intently, I start to feel calm, happy even - now I am content. Here we have a new concept - novelty, or beginners mind (Shunryu Suzuki wrote a book all about this). There is also another interesting thing going on - contrast, or noticing opposites - I was not content, now I am content. Noticing change also stimulates interest in the mind.

So yes, art can help us get into calmer states of mind, but it is not actually the art that is doing it - it is the natural curiosity that it stimulates in our mind that leads to a release of pleasure that then leads to contentment. By this token, we need constant novelty to stimulate this process. However, once we recognise this process (once we have trained ourselves) we need very little too produce the same effect - we are free from the need to find the next stimulus.

Comments

Pali said…
Please do keep writing, it's great to read!
Lightfoot said…
Thanks, I'll keep going until I die. I was hoping to broaden the scope - I am slowly reducing myself to one topic ...

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