Saturday, September 12, 2020

COPING WITH COVID – No Better Time for Seeing Generously

 At first glance, vision may seem like a simple one-way transaction. We open our eyes. An image goes in and gets processed by the mind. If it's something important, it may move us to feel or do something, or it gets stored somewhere for future reference.

In fact, it's easy to think of all our senses like that—merely taking in sensations. But it doesn't have to be that way. Consider touch. I mean we generally see, hear, taste or smell anonymously—without any involvement of the thing we're sensing. But when we touch something, it always, automatically, touches us back

Until recently, I thought touch was the only one of our conventional senses that could do that. But with COVID-19 trying to suck the life out of our touching, it seems a good time to reconsider the reach and intention of our other senses.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if seeing were more like touch? If one could actually impart something akin to the warmth and gentle pressure of a hug or holding hands without violating social distancing guidelines?

        You purposely, preemptively, dismiss the
        distractions and open your soul to wonder
        before you even know it’s there.

It's hard to imagine, because we've gotten complacent in our seeing. We expect to find our images delivered effortlessly to us on screens, often while sitting alone or at least in our own little worlds. With virtually no contact with the actual things depicted on the screen, it's kind of a sad exercise in anonymity.

This consumption mentality of seeing affects even the way we perceive real stuff. For example, we seem to prefer looking at things we already know. Like so many TV re-runs, their familiarity soothes us, keeps us company, actually turns off our minds. Nothing's really new. We give nothing, we invest nothing and, one could argue, we get nothing.

So what is seeing generously? What does it look like?

Is our seeing all it can be?

It may happen unconsciously. Let's say you're looking at something—an animal, a sunset, another person. If, at that moment, your mind has its foot on your spirit, you won't be especially moved. But as soon as you begin to let go of objectives and schedules, turn of the cell phone and truly notice, something begins to change. 

You start seeing more proactively. That is, instead of waiting for small wonders to strike your visual fancy, you actually go looking for them. Instead of expecting them to somehow crack through your inattention, your distraction, you, at least now and then, purposely, preemptively, dismiss the distractions and open your soul to wonder before you even know it’s there.

            When we see things in this way, we grow,
       our consciousness grows and the world
       becomes a more mindful, loving place.

At first, it may be just small increments of investment, feelings like appreciation or satisfaction. That's okay; it's a start. But then, if you can allow yourself to be curious, the way you were naturally when you were a child, the transaction starts to truly transform.
Now your seeing's become a gift, not just to yourself, but to the person or thing you're curious about. When we see things in this way—not just with our eyes, or even our mind, but with our heart and our spirit—we grow, our consciousness grows and the world becomes a more mindful, loving place.

Have you ever noticed the way a person lights up when the conversation turns from the typical self-promoting, cocktail party chatter to genuine interest in something that really matters to that person? You know, when "Me, me, me…well, enough about me. What do you think about me?" turns to "What about you? What are you interested in?"  When we see someone that way—or when we wonder at one of Nature's miracles—that's a blessing we give to that person, that creature or that thing.

This is even more important during this historic confluence of pandemic with what may well be the most frightening political collapse we've ever experienced in the U.S. It's a time when those with the emotional maturity to do so must recognize other folks' pain and loneliness. If we're ever able to reconcile our differences, we must learn to view even our most bitter political enemies with compassion. 

That is how seeing generously looks and sounds...and has to be.

Do you see generously? Does your ability to do so hinge on what's going on in your life and in the world? Think you'd still be able to if Donald Trump' reign of error continues for another term? We'd love to hear about your ideas and experiences!

Friday, August 28, 2020

CREATIVE GENUS – My Career Path From Crayons to Kerning

My fourth-grade teacher, Miss Berg, taught me that I was an artist.

Okay, sure, teachers—at least the good ones—do that all the time; every kid should feel special. But with Miss Berg it was different. When I produced one of my little masterpieces—usually rather dense compositions of geometric shapes and patterns using those luscious, off-color crayons like blue-green, mahogany and Indian red—she would not just encourage me, she’d point to my work as an example for other kids whose design muse evidently wasn’t speaking to them.


I guess that’s all it takes to plant the seeds of a human being’s self-actualization. Sure enough, even though I’d done nothing consciously to hone that dull blade of creativity, by the time I got to college, it just seemed obvious that I’d major in Art. (For some odd reason, my boys military high school had offered no art program. The powers that be must have considered art unmanly—so we had mandatory football instead. Seriously.)

As college graduation—and the Vietnam War—loomed, I had to figure out a way to continue my education and thus earn a deferment from the draft. It had to be a field that would not only put to use my nascent artistic talents, but lead to an honorable, paying career. So I headed to architecture school.

The creative aspects of architecture tapped into that designer mentality first encouraged by Miss Berg. It seemed a perfectly logical branching out from just two-dimensional shape and crayon-rendered color to three dimensions. Turns out I was pretty good at visualizing space, stacking it, dividing it and making those divisions flow one to the next.

I also loved the creative process: analyzing the requirements of a project, sketching concepts, giving and getting feedback from classmates and faculty “crits,” drafting, modeling… I even enjoyed the bleary-eyed rigor of all-nighters spent in the studio, exchanging ideas and encouragement with my fellow designers.

Unfortunately, along with the third dimension, architecture demanded that I not only design buildings, but make sure they’d stand up when built. And for that, the barely-passing physics and calculus grades I’d eked out in college proved lacking. So I had to take both courses all over again and be ready to apply that knowledge to the second-year architecture class that came closest to engineering: Building Technology.