Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. – Lao Tzu
I was browsing through titles and stopped at Art is a way of knowing by Pat B. Allen, a book about using art to know yourself.
The book addresses questions I have been having recently about the way in which so much around us is stripped of its soul, it’s essence.
I don’t know if it’s a peculiarly Western thing or if it’s common to all people but it’s a problem.
There seems to be a desire for people to reduce everything to method – to take something which is new and good and useful and boil it down to nothing.
It’s like taking fresh, green garden peas and reducing them to dull, drab, grey mush.
Let’s put this in context.
It’s good to reach out to people, no?
It’s good to be social, to communicate, be friendly, be approachable, be open?
So that is what you do on social media – you make an effort to be all those things.
Then, just to make sure everyone sees how social you are you get into a routine of posting – create a method to increase engagement.
That means hacking the system, perhaps posting the same content several times a day to make sure everyone gets it when they turn on their phones.
And then there are a myriad other tips and tricks and hacks and shortcuts that boost engagement.
But do they create a connection between you and someone else?
Do you make a friend?
Allen describes how this happens with art, as it professionalises and is measured, judged, approved or not by others, and how artists then contort themselves to fit with this thinking or flee somewhere else.
And a lot of this, I think, comes down to people just not understanding the difference between method and practice.
Method is something you do.
Practice is something you do.
And yet, they are not the same thing.
For example, any business course, book or guru will tell you the method to success; that you need a plan, you need to set goals, objectives, have a vision and a mission.
If you don’t have those things you have nothing.
I feel like these things are like differently shaped blocks piled on top of one another balancing on the head of a pin.
They may be stable in the seconds after you build the tower – if you’ve got the balance right.
But the slightest tremor, the lightest breeze can knock them over.
As the saying goes, no plan survives first contact with the enemy.
How would you depict reality if you could only use colour and not these plans?
For me, it’s a landscape – rocks, greenery, pits, lava.
There are no boundaries, nothing demarcated in nature – just what is and how it’s arranged itself – and it looks different depending on how you see it.
How would you navigate through such a landscape?
If you’re afraid of the black bits or the brown bits or the red bits – then you’re going to stop – move no further.
But if you want to go forward you have to try out routes – try and see where you can move.
If you look around, pay attention, then you’ll start to see safe spots and dangerous spots – start to see where it might be possible to move.
There are no guarantees, just because you can see doesn’t mean you will do anything.
But when you see things you start to learn and you start to see patterns.
And once you see patterns you can make other decisions and see if the patterns spoke the truth to you.
Reality is messy and real and doesn’t really give a damn about you and what you want and what your hopes and plans are.
You just need to move through your reality taking whatever route opens up to you that seems like it’s going to keep you moving.
And eventually you’ll tread your own path – one that seems like you could really have done nothing else with your life.
And you really won’t be able to tell whether you did well or poorly, whether you won or lost until it’s all over.
All that matters, in reality, is to enjoy the journey.