“Il n’ y a en art, ni passé, ni futur. L’art qui n’est pas dans le present ne sera jamais” - Pablo Picasso.
What does Picasso mean? In art, he says, there is no past or future. There is only the present. Art that is not in the present will never be. Picasso lived his life very much in the present. (He married twice, and usually had several mistresses in tow. He certainly lived each day to the full!).
I can understand why Picasso was obsessed with the present. Clients who come into my office often talk about the past. They want to cling on to what they had. But what they had has gone; it is as if it never was. Sure, there is tangible evidence of what was there, but when times change, so do lives. It takes time to accept that the past is in the past, and that you should leave it where it belongs, taking with you the memories of what was good. You can — and should — leave all the rest behind where it was, not where it is, to rest in peace.
Bitter experiences make it hard to face the future. And the future worries all of us at some time or another. We cannot know what will happen. We cannot know if our futures are rosy, or otherwise. The emotional trauma of a broken relationship means the future is even harder to face. It isn’t always possible to predict if and when a relationship will break down. It can happen like a shock, with the fallout a never-ending nightmare. Even the best laid plans often go awry. As John Lennon once said “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” How ironic that life caught up with him so cruelly.
So life, like art, is all about living in the present. What is happening today is most important, as it is every day. What is equally important is to know how to live life as joyfully and positively as you can — even if your heart is breaking. This is simply because there is nothing other than the present. The past has gone; the future is always to come.
It is difficult to see how Picasso, living in France, was not influenced by French philosophy. The French are wonderful philosophers. They are a highly cultured nation and always seem to be able to offer philosophical advice, through art, drama, film, music and books.
According to the French, however, we may live in the present but we should never stop looking for the unexpected, for that escape from reality. The French term for this is Échappée Belle — The Beautiful Escape.
As a family lawyer, I concur with this philosophy. We live in the present, but every one of us needs to escape from the routine, the humdrum everyday reality once in a while. What is wrong with a little joy and indulgence; especially if, better still, it can be enjoyed with a partner?
It is so easy to bind your life to a routine. Today I was sorry to hear from a client that she believed her marriage had gone wrong because the magic had gone from their marriage. Life had become one long round of drudgery for her and for him. He went his way, and she went hers. How sad is that? I wish they had known about Échappée Belle. Who knows what could have been?
Nicknamed "The Barracuda" for her tenacity, Marilyn Stowe is one of the UK’s most sought after divorce lawyers, and is the senior partner at Stowe Family Law.