Sunday, December 13, 2015

Before You Can

Before you can express anything in tangible form, you first need eyes to see. The mere attempt, therefore, to create an artistic form compels the artist to take a fresh look at the visible reality; it requires authentic and personal observation. Long before a creation is completed, the artist has gained for himself another and more intimate achievement: a deeper and more receptive vision, a more intense awareness, a sharper and more discerning understanding, a more patient openness for all things quiet and inconspicuous, an eye for things previously overlooked. In short: the artist will be able to perceive with new eyes the abundant wealth of all visible reality, and, thus challenged, additionally acquires the inner capacity to absorb into his mind such an exceedingly rich harvest. The capacity to see increases.

- Josef Pieper, Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation.

* * *

The way forward for any last one of us is to create. The way to create is to see with new eyes the circumstances one finds oneself in. Only by one is the other engendered, but once set in motion becomes a self-sustaining (or Self sustaining) process of vision and creation and a further vision and further creation: a life built. To create you need only the awareness, the desire to change the circumstances surrounding you. That is all. By each word I type I change the quality of my life and the quality of the lives of those close to me. But that is only one form of creation. The form does not matter, only that there is a form, a desire, a willingness to undergo the process of opening your eyes and taking the time to see what there is to be seen–no matter how small, inconspicuous, difficult, quiet, over-looked, commonplace, ephemeral, personal or miraculous.

It requires a willingness to see yourself as an artist: one who creates her life by each step, thought, action and word.

If you are only thinking paintings you've missed the point.

* * *

Two of the seminal books that inform this writing are Epictetus' The Art of Living and Joseph Campbell's Reflections on the Art of Living. Both take as their premise that a life, your life, any life is created by the choices made or unmade, choices in concert with the times of one's life, or in opposition to it. Both frame the conversation in terms of art. Neither of them solely speak of the plastic arts, the fine arts (though Campbell writes only for the poets and artists and dancers and composers who might hear him). I think this quality of seeing your life as a work, an on-going work of art, has fallen from much consideration. It has been replaced with a view of life as a matter of extraction and acquisition, a capitalist function that forever separates winners from losers and never considers the interior life of those pushed along that conveyor belt.

It is exactly here, at this juncture of public life and interior life, of expectation from without and the innate compass within that most men lead lives of quiet desperation. The latter appears to have no place in public affairs, while the former parches the inner worlds of those who go along to get along, to remain anonymous, to not resist it. The world of men is renewed and made more fully human when the interior life, the inner vision of how a life might be lived in concert with the visible world is made manifest by those willing to risk such things: the audacity to see and not recoil, to see and witness, to bear witness to their lives and the life of the world around them.

To do so changes reality, alters worlds, changes them from wastelands into fields of the possible, even if those fields are simply your backyard.

If you count yourself fucked, off the centerline of your better self, I can only ask that you start seeing the world as it is, the rich harvest of the mundane: the astonishment of origins. 

* * *

The art of living presupposes an artist.

It is you my brother.
It is you, my sister.

And to be an artist is to create: ceaselessly, with an ever intensifying awareness of the power of your vision, with no concern whatsoever for the particular form, only that it is yours.

__________

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