Opinions, Column

“The Absence of Limitations Is the Enemy of Art”

The other day, my friends and I brainstormed the next big thing. The next Sillybandz, the next Fruit Ninja, the next hoverboard or Flappy Bird or air fryer. To no one’s surprise, though, we couldn’t think of anything. “Everything already exists,” we said. 

But, as demonstrated by each new discovery, everything doesn’t already exist. There was, in fact, a time before TikTok consumed our phone batteries and every spare moment. There was a time before we all wore Lululemon and before we all downloaded BeReal. 

So, I offer you this: “The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.” – Orson Welles

I love that quote. 

Think of all the times you watched a simple cartoon as a kid. All the innuendos, pop-culture references, and adult jokes probably went over your head. Why? Because the audience of the cartoon was children! But that doesn’t mean the adult animators couldn’t have some fun of their own, making parents laugh just as hard as their children. Looney Tunes, Shrek, any Pixar movie—all of these cartoons had forced limitations surrounding “appropriateness.” But these creators took their life circumstances, working a job to make a kids movie, and maneuvered within those limitations to create their truest vision. 

So, where does that leave me and my friends? We can’t think of the next big thing. Everything already exists. So we are limited to finding something that doesn’t, right? Well, if I’m being frank, none of us are real entrepreneur-y types. But, the dilemma got me thinking …

I recently turned 21, and, as many of my friends would agree, it feels like there are no more limits. It’s true. In some ways, I have unlocked the entire City of Boston. I have been slowly utilizing more and more of the city as I go out more and more, and it feels like I always have something to do. But, if I’m being honest with myself, my most fun nights have always been the nights where I have had nothing to do because the bars won’t let me in, or because the party is too crowded, or because the movie sold out. These nights I had to be creative—maybe make up a new card game with my roommates or make up a new tradition for us to try. Once again, “the absence of limitations is the enemy of art.”

Although I was unable to brainstorm the next big fad, I noticed something peculiar: I complain too much. Oftentimes, I do not accept the reality of my life, and I feel obligated to get to a party just to “show face,” or feel like I have to go to a dance show to support my friends. But I should not resent these “limits.” These obligations might sometimes prevent me from trying new experiences, but they also might just bring me to the next place I am supposed to be. 

So, here’s my plan. I need to start accepting my life’s limits as is. 

If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, and if it isn’t, then it isn’t. There is nothing wrong with where I am at. In college, I often find the need to think both A) I am in control of my whole life and B) I need to get somewhere I am not. Yes, I control myself, but I also don’t control everything about my life. External factors might limit me, and in accepting them, I might just find a new form of happiness. As for feeling like I need to get somewhere I’m not, maybe I just haven’t realized my limits have situated me right where I need to be. While I might want to do one thing, I might not be meant to do it—and the “right” thing might already be in front of me. 

“The absence of limitations is the enemy of art,” and maybe even the enemy of living a fulfilling life. 

October 29, 2023