Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017

The Purpose of Human Activity is to Make Art!

Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017
Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017

Once we have the basics of living (enough money to pay rent, feed ourselves, drink coffee, have access to wifi, etc…) what is the purpose of living?

What is the ‘Causa Finalis’ of human activity?

I was reading ‘Thoughts Out of Season‘ by Nietzsche, in his chapter on ‘Schopenhauer as Educator’ and came across this gem:

“I have often said, and will often repeat, the causa finalis [end or purpose/final cause] of natural and human activity is dramatic poetry. Otherwise the stuff is of no use at all.” – Goethe

Nietzsche was a huge fan of the poet, and polymath Goethe.

According to Goethe, he sees the ‘causa finalis’ (the final end, or good) of a human being is to make art.

‘Causa Finalis’: End or purpose: a change or movement’s final “cause”, is that for the sake of which a thing is what it is. For a seed, it might be an adult plant. For a sailboat, it might be sailing. For a ball at the top of a ramp, it might be coming to rest at the bottom.

Most of us have enough to survive. We no longer will starve to death, or die from the cold. We have enough.

So…why do we keep on living? Why do we keep on working, to make more money– for what? Why do we keep working harder and harder, like machines– to get promotions, and to make extra money in our jobs?

You are a visual artist!

If you’re reading this, you love art. You love making pictures. You are a photographer and artist.

What is it that you really want — once you have enough money for the basics?

Kyoto Bebop by CINDY NGUYEN

My theory: the purpose of your life is to make art– visual art!

We are photographers, we prefer to make visual pictures with our camera. We want to make pictures which EXCITE us. We want to make beautiful and aesthetically pleasing pictures, that stir something within our souls. We want to infect our viewer with our enthusiasm and passion for life and living.


The ultimate purpose of us as artists is to continue to MAKE NEW PICTURES!. To not sit on our laurels on the past.

Personally, I get bored looking at too many of my old pictures. Looking at my old pictures holds me back. Because I become a slave to my past ‘style.’ Rather, I am interested in innovation– making new pictures.

How I make new pictures

Yakiniku grill. Kyoto, 2017
Yakiniku grill. Kyoto, 2017

Anything that encourages you to make NEW PICTURES is good.

For me, this is what encourages me to make new pictures:

  1. Studying the work of the masters, and having the audacity to want to make better pictures than them.
  2. Rather than buying new gear to motivate myself to make new pictures– figuring out how to use my old gear to make new pictures. For example, I’m currently just shooting JPEG on my Ricoh GR II, and processing super-psychedelic colors with ERIC KIM CHROMA presets.
  3. Living life more: Walking more, drinking more coffee, chatting with more strangers, exploring new parts of town, traveling, reading and studying poetry and philosophy, enjoying good food, making art with Cindy, finding inspiration in cinema, fashion, interior architecture, and from street scenes (this is why I love street photography, it encourages me to get out of the house and walk more. The more I walk, the more I love life!)

Why make art?

Mercedes SUV and white boxes. Kyoto, 2017
Mercedes SUV and white boxes. Kyoto, 2017

I think to be human is to make art.

ART is anything you make. I don’t think there is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ art. Only art which interests you, and art which doesn’t interest you.

To make good art is to be faithful to yourself, and your inner-vision. To make good art is to have confidence in yourself. To make good art is to play like a child. This is what Picasso said:

Every child is born an artist. The difficult thing is for the child to stay an artist as she gets older.

To be an artist is to want to express something within us– to visualize it into some sort of physical or metaphysical form.

We can be visual artists: making art visually. For example, a visual artist can make pictures via photographs, painting, drawings, sculpture, fashion, etc.

The only way to be a ‘successful’ artist in my eyes:

Make art that impresses even you.

If you can impress yourself with your own artwork, you are successful. Don’t let no art critics super-impose their ‘opinions’ on you.

Blue curtain abstract. Kyoto, 2017
Blue curtain abstract. Kyoto, 2017


Kyoto urban landscape, 2017
Kyoto urban landscape, 2017

If given the option to have more time to make art, or to trade your time for more money — choose to have more free time to make more art. This is really the secret to ‘happiness’ (eudaemonia) and ‘human flourishing’ as an artist.

Your time is the ultimate currency. You can never earn another year of your life. At best, you might live to be 120 years old. Realistically, maybe 90 years old. We will never invent a miracle pill to stop aging. And no, you will NOT want to upload your consciousness to ‘the cloud’ — that wouldn’t be “you” anyways.


While you’re still alive, seek to make art that ignites your soul on fire. Slash away at the ugliness of reality with your crimson sword, and break through any creative doubts you have with your bronze hammer.


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