Living Beyond Reason

By Kara Johnstad

I was at a small dinner party last week. A beautiful  evening and I was reminded of how much I love living in Europe, the quiet romantic courtyards, the huge old windows, the gas lamps, and the slowed down life style.  
The evening was perfect, wonderful food and high spirits,  and yet I was reminded of a quote
“Interpretation is the revenge of the intellectual upon art.”  
Susan Sontag

There is an art of analyzing art and yet there is the beauty of simply absorbing and letting it touch you. There is a beauty as an artist of not having to explain why we are singing, and the joy of singing. Doing it. Not having to know why we are loving, we love.

I have a dear friend and he walks into museums with me and says – let’s just go in and see what pulls us. There is no buying the books beforehand, or analyzing the catalogs, nor is there reading the descriptions on the side of the paintings, we walk around until something touches us, until we are moved, and only then do we begin the journey.

I did this with an exhibition by Annie Leibovitz. It was in Berlin at the old Post Office building. Huge rooms and the line to get in was long. It was my only free day, and I stood in the rain, happy to be on an artist date with myself.

I walked through the rooms with no history  and no stories to take with me. I let her various stages work in me. I saw pictures of rock stars, pictures of death beds, pictures of a lady on a beach with a little kid, holding hands and daring the waves to hit their ankles, and I simply wandered and sensed. At the end of the two hours I came upon a room with a video playing a documentary on her life. I went in the dark room and stepped into the middle of the film.

She was in the final days with her partner Susan Sontag. I was pulled. Then I watched her take photos of her dying father and then as everyone left the theater I stayed and watched the beginning of her early career. The drugs, the rock stars, the long highways and the high end star shoots and then the hard contrast of going from Fifth Avenue bling bling to being in Herzegovina during the war times and watching bombs fall.

Her work hit me and touched me, and yet even though I saw all these parts, the beauty was, I was only left with the whole. The colors and shades and I could not dissect.

This is what fascinated me about the dinner conversation on the evening in Berlin, the need to dissect and analyze art. And yet I, as an artist, could not dissect my own songs. There is no logic when I write.

“The artist must scorn all judgment that is not based on an intelligent observation of character. He must beware of the literary spirit which so often causes a painting to deviate from its true path – the concrete study of nature – to lose itself all too long in intangible speculations.”   Paul Cezanne

There is a mood, there are triggers from within or without, there is a feeling that happens as I deep dive and sometimes memories or colors are added, and yet it is always fascinating to watch non-artists tell artists what art really is and what is really valuable in a piece or not.

I left the evening happy that I had never ever been able to dissect a frog. For I knew that the frog was only beautiful whole and alive and the beauty was not to disturb this complex universe.

The same is with cars, or bikes, I never wanted to take things apart and dissect it and put it back together. I simply loved riding, wind blowing against my face, fascinated that all the parts were working. If they were not working, I simply walked and brought it to the shop. Yes, the joys of being an “artist.”

“Creativity takes courage.” 
Henri Matisse

I do not think that reason can lead us to truth. A famous Tibetan Monk, Marpa, is reported to have said after someone asked him, “can’t scriptures help?” he said, they can help you to move beyond scriptures. Read them, learn them, understand them enough to know that truth is not written in stone, truth is in the wind. It is hard to catch.

Reason can analyze, but it can not synthesize. It can not integrate. Like scissors it can cut and divide but it can not melt. It can not create harmony.

There is a very beautiful story about an ancient Sufi Saint named Bayazid. One day, many many years ago, somebody wanted to make him a gift and presented him with a pair of golden scissors. This scissors were very precious and had diamonds on them and were very rare.

Bayazid did not accept this gift. “Take them back.” “Why?”  the man questioned, for he had thought that he was giving something so important, Bayazid answered,

“because my essence is not to cut and divide and to analyze. Bring me a needle, golden or not golden. My whole being wishes for synthesis, synthesis is my goal, to join things together, not to cut apart. A scissors is not for me.”

When sitting at this very beautiful dinner party, I had to think of this story. How there are the artists and then the world that revolves around the artists. The world of buying and selling and creating comparisons and dissecting. Yet the world around the artist and the world of the artist are at times moving from different places.

Technique is really personal.
That is the reason why the artist cannot teach it,
why the pupil cannot learn it,

and why the aesthetic critic can understand it. 


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To the great poet, there is only one method of music — his own. To the great painter, there is only one manner of painting — that which he himself employs.    

The aesthetic critic, and the aesthetic critic alone,  
can appreciate all forms and all modes.  
It is to him that Art makes her appeal.” 

Oscar Wilde

The one world is to integrate and works inwards and later gives birth outwards, the other one gives reasons and dissects and I am not really sure if after you have dissected a song or a painting if you will ever feel the same joy.

I myself know that as a songwriter and coach, I lead people to places of creation and try to have them get in touch with different layers that are beyond reasoning, and yet this is why I do not teach songwriting. Because for me, there is no right and wrong in art or in singing or in painting.

The techniques are like the scriptures. They are there to study and help us develop a certain discipline, they are there as bridges to help us move forward when we might be a bit stuck, but in the end, they are tools and what you need is a needle. A needle to sew all the memories and fantasies and soundscapes and techniques together into your own unique offering.

The HOLSTEE MANIFESTO  click here to read the manifesto …


When the heart starts functioning, there is no returning to reason. You use the mind as a tool, but you know that when you dissect, art disappears, Just like when you are in love, if you analyze the goods and bads and conversations, the body, the nose, the goods and bad, if you start to reason, the love has already disappeared. The quickest way to destroy love is to try to explain it.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right,  for you’ll be criticized anyway.” 
Eleanor Roosevelt

Art is such a delicate harmony, a unity. It cannot be dissected nor can it be understood. It can be experienced. Enjoy opening your beings to the art that moves you. You need no other reason than that you are alive and curious. Trust in your own inner voice when listening to music and hanging up artwork that you love,  you know better than any studied art critic, what touches you deeply.

Artists and poets are the raw nerve ends of humanity. By themselves they can do little to save humanity.Without them there would be little worth saving.


Inscription on headstone in Green River Cemetery, Springs NY where Jackson Pollock, Elaine de Kooning, and other artists are buried. Quoted in the NewYork Times,17  Aug1993.

Go out and seize the day! And remember, the world comes to you when you are living from your essence.

Stay Gold,


Share your genius in the comments, and feel free to join the the conversation at 🙂 
I’m really excited to hear what you have to say.
Thank you, as always, for tuning in, reading and contributing.
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Kara Johnstad is a creative visionary, transformational catalyst and a powerful voice in the time and age of transition. She is a singer / songwriter, creator of The Essence Radio Show™, and founder of the Voice Your Essence Program. If you are ready to take your voice and your world to the next level, you can sign up for a F.R.E.E. subscription of her weekly eZine, at

Image: “street of Paris” by Kara Johnstad
Image: “Abstract Vivid Color” by Idea go /
Image: “Yellow Field On Grunge Paper” by MR LIGHTMAN / freedigitalpho
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About karajohnstad

Kara Johnstad is a creative visionary, transformational catalyst and a powerful voice in the time and age of transition. She is a singer / songwriter, creator of The Essence Radio Show™, and founder of the Voice Your Essence™ Mastery Program. Leading change agents, healers, personal development speakers and others recognize her as being a unique source of powerful truth and wisdom. As a top voice expert she has helped thousands with her "break-through" voice techniques and shares with us the secrets behind this powerful instrument and the role the human voice plays in fine tuning our Mind-Body-Spirit systems. Kara connects each and every week with subscribers from around the world via her Voice Your Essence™ eZine. Enjoy listening to Kara's soulful music as part of your daily ritual of reconnecting to source or jump onto the next level and experience personally the power of your true authentic voice with Kara Johnstad's VoiceYour Essence™ Mastery Program

One thought on “BEING AN ARTIST TAKES COURAGE: Living Beyond Reason

  1. This is beautiful, Kara. To dissect is to destroy under the guise of education, but how can anything that comes from the heart be dissected without the destruction of its origin? It is impossible.

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