An artist of any kind (writer, entrepreneur, photographer, poet, designer, mother) decides that they will open their eyes to things formerly unseen. This is the unwritten law between us creators — we make a promise to notice everything. Or at least we try to.
In the beginning, the excitement of this sixth sense is something like sneaking out the window of your parent’s house in 8th grade. The novelty is so intense, so substantive, that the brain begins to smoke like an overheated 4-banger.
A certain posture is then adopted. Without even noticing, we become watchers. Our endurance to simply observe is unmatched.
The thirst to see things as they are — not how we want to see them — becomes the goal.
I’ve noticed this is quite counter-cultural. But if you give it enough time, the practice becomes non-claustrophobic.
Some define this behavior as voyeurism. I call it humanism.
We do this because as creators, this is our nutrition. Human situation is the raw material for creativity. The world is our classroom.
God knows traditional schooling doesn’t teach us how to be creative. Therefore, how can you blame us for such behavior?
All this awareness, however, is not always cute. The problem, you see, is that you can’t become aware of all things and not be woken to your own shit. We’ve all got baggage. I suppose this is the cost-of-entry into the creative life. If you want to see things with the energy and clarity of a Zen Monk who has just downed three sugar-free Red Bulls, you have to be willing to see into your own life. Otherwise, the journey is fractured, like a Rococo Revival porters chair with only three legs.
The key then is to make sure we don’t let the romance of this awareness bloat our perception in either direction. Here’s the marching order: To see things not better than they are or worse than they are.
We must be systematic but not machine-like. What we are looking for transcends general enlightenment. The aim is to turn our gaze from a weak flashlight into a piercing laser beam.
While this stance offers a view into our own vices, at the same time, it gives us a plain invitation to a banquet of miracles.
When we wake up and shake ourselves from the walking slumber, we give ourselves the chance to become an alchemist of the standard. This is the beginning of the personal revolution for the artist. Like a rookie pregnant with excitement, the early days are filled with grandiose hopes to find the extraordinary stories, human experiences and life events.
With time, however, the artist begins to see. It’s as if the fog has melted off the window and a whole new world can now be witnessed.
The discovery is this: Most of the sweetest moments in life are found in magnificent simplicity.
The two-word prayer, a tea with Momma, honoring our vets, a long walk, holding your baby, an honest gesture of appreciation from your boss, a kiss from your wife, watching the game with Grandpa, helping someone who can’t pay you back, exchanging rings, doing the dishes for him because you know that makes him happy, reading a novel on Saturday morning.
Becoming aware often lends to a posture that overlooks these simple gems of life.
We get caught up in trying to become famous rather than trying to make an impact. But when we shed the ego from our perception, we realize that life gently offers us a handsome menu of moments grounded in simple kindness.
For the artist, training our eyes to see and embody each of these moments is the aim of the creative life. Once we graduate to this ethos, we join a body of people actively working to generate a world of hope. Through small acts of love, we keep the world turning in the midst of personal and global strife.
This is an invitation to become an artist. Will you join us?