Dance With Parallax

My favorite word of the week is ‘parallax.’ Horatio pulled it out of the word bin during our latest conversation about art and artistry. We were discussing the difference between what an artist sees in their work and what others see – and how artistic “sight” changes over time. I scribbled the word along with the phrase, “the difference in what you see and what others see. Perspective over time.” After our call I looked up the word in my dictionary:

paral-lax (noun) 1. Apparent change of position. 2. Angle measuring star’s distance from Earth.

Many years ago in a fit of vulnerability I showed my mentor, a great theatre and visual artist, my paintings. I lined them all up for him to see. I followed him around the room as he quietly studied each piece. Finally, after taking in all of my work, he asked, “What’s the meaning of the spheres?” I was dumbfounded and had no idea what he was asking. “Spheres? What spheres?” So he led me back around the room, revisiting each painting, showing me the three spheres that appeared in EVERY single painting.

“What’s with the spheres?” he repeated, knowing that there wasn’t an answer but there was certainly a vast new question. My universe spun a bit that day so astounded was I at my inability to see the unifying principle in my own paintings.

I needed his eyes to see my work. Isn’t that the point?

When I think back on that day, on that younger version of my self, I revisit the fear, the raging vulnerability I felt in sharing my paintings. I feel again the deep doubt I held against myself. I recall the nausea of inviting someone I admired into my house of doubt. I somehow believed that, to be an artist, I had “to know” what I was doing – yet knew with certainty that I had no idea what I was doing. I knew with certainty that he would see through me to my lack of knowing.

And, he did. Thank goodness. “What’s with the spheres?” Such a simple question yet it spun my universe and pitched me through the portal of a new perspective.

I learned that day that artistry has nothing to do with knowing. Life has nothing to do with knowing. Knowing is an illusion, temporary at best. Knowing has everything to do with hiding.

Making a life, as Master Marsh just reminded me, is an engagement with the unknown. It is to have experiences. It is to make meaning of the experiences. If you are lucky, you learn to have the experiences first, and make the meaning second. It is to understand that, in this dance of knowing and not-knowing, sight and blindness, chaos and order, consciousness and unconsciousness, there are no fixed points. There is dance:

dance (noun) 1. An act of stepping or moving through a series of movements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Doubt

Pidgeon Pier - acrylic on canvas

Pigeon Pier – acrylic on canvas

It’s been months since I had a good chat with the stained glass window. I hadn’t realized that the conversations had stopped. The summer was a blur of unplanned travel and I suspect during the chaos of coming and going that I simply stopped asking questions.

This morning we awoke to snow, the first of the season. Snow arrives silently and inspires inner silence. Steeped in the snow’s quiet I heard the window’s greeting. “Ah, Welcome back.” And so began our conversation about doubt.

Doubt is a double-edged sword, it has two distinct faces. The first face, unlike the snow, is noisy. Doubt does not arrive in silence. It demands to be heard. In the middle of my conversation with the window I heard P-Tom say, “Fear makes us doubt our belief and believe our doubts.” This face of doubt is a crazy maker. It makes muddy the inner waters. It makes all fears come true.

There is another face of doubt, not born of fear but arising from love. The 5th Agreement of Don Miguel Ruiz is this: doubt everything that you think. To doubt what you think makes little sense without the preceding agreements, the most powerful (to me) is this – Be impeccable to your word: speak your truth and nothing else; do not blame or accuse or make others responsible for your pain (your thoughts and actions); own your thoughts; own your actions. Or, better said, love yourself enough to express your love and nothing else. Don Miguel writes that impeccability to your word requires self-love. In this context, this other face of doubt is a step forward. Coming from love, to doubt what you think is akin to cleaning up the dirty dishes. It is to not take anything too seriously. Thought is nothing more than storytelling and to doubt the story births detachment from investment in the story. Detaching from the story-investment brings quiet, like the snow.

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Be A Hypocrite

742. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Apparently, I am a hypocrite. I do not always practice what I preach. Most days I believe that I am my brother’s keeper. Yet some days I walk passed someone in need; I turn my head and pretend not to see them, saying to myself, “This is not mine to do.”

I believe in anchoring my life in love and yet sometimes I enshroud myself in a wet blanket of fear. I say things I do not mean. I judge and run back to my safe place.

I believe in the power of possibility and yet there are days that I fill my cup to overflowing with “I can’t.” I invest with gusto in my disbelief and hide my gifts beneath a mound of doubt.

I preach the virtues of going slow. I believe in being present and yet at times I find myself racing to get somewhere. I tailgate other drivers wanting to “get there.”

I believe in the power of language and yet I have said hurtful things and am often unaware of what I am actually saying.

I believe intuition trumps intellect every time and yet I regularly justify and reason myself out of following my gut instinct. I spend an inordinate amount of time in my head (I call it my office) and talk on and on about being more in my body or in nature. Empty words.

I believe in loyalty and trust and yet at crucial moments in my life have chosen self-preservation; I did not throw myself under the bus to save the other.

I believe in self-love yet have given the farm away more times than I can count. I hurt my self regularly with my unwarranted self-judgments and unrealistic expectations. I hold myself to standards that I would never expect from others.

There are gaps everywhere. I am flawed, flawed, flawed. Accuse me of almost any hypocrisy and I will look you in the eye and admit my imperfection. I am human and by definition that means I am messy and riddled with contradictions. Hold me to a standard of perfection and I will utterly disappoint you. Ask me why I say one thing and do another and I will get angry and defend my belief even as I know that I have betrayed it with service to yet another belief.

What I do not believe is that the world is black and white. I do not believe in absolutes. For me, truth is found in the paradox. Life is lived in the contradictions. I grant my life the same principles that make color vibrant: there’s nothing like a touch of red to make the greens pop. If you really want to see the orange, surround it with something blue. As Quinn once told me, all religious traditions have one thing in common: they instruct us to find the middle way, seek the path between the pair of opposites. It is impossible to find the middle way by eliminating the contradictions; one must test the boundaries to know where they are. As Dan Pink writes, “Clarity depends on contrast.” Given my massive contradictions, I expect someday to be utterly clear for at least one brief moment. In case you expect my clarity to last be forewarned that I will most certainly follow my moment of clarity with wholehearted dedication to some new spectacular confusion.

Just Watch Me

547. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

The other day Judy was sharing her vision for playing the harp in hospitals and hospice. She was so clear and passionate and finished her dreaming with this: she said, “And I’m going to do it, you just watch me!” And I knew without doubt that she would make her vision come to pass because she had no doubt.

When things come to me in clusters, I know to pay attention. “Knowing without doubt” has been the central theme of many of my recent conversations. Last night, Bryan was telling me about a crucial moment in his past, the moment when his life changed. He said, “It wasn’t until I knew; when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what I wanted, it seemed like the entire universe rushed to show me how to get there.”

After my mystical meeting with Janice-the-heron-lady yesterday, I googled “heron” and loved this phrase: Heron’s appear when we need to be aggressive beyond doubt in pursuit of our needs and desires. Heron teaches us to be self-determined.

When Alan coaches people he brings them to what he calls a “once and for all commitment.” The commitment they make is to themselves – and can only come when, beyond a shadow of a doubt, they are ready to pursue their dream. It is the moment when, like Judy, they say, “Just watch me.”

Today, I am paying attention to the shadow that doubt casts, knowing that I am the creator of the doubt; the shadow cast is mine. What do I need to know or do or let go to move beyond the shadow of my doubt, to stand in the sun and say once and for all, “I’m going to do it; just watch me.”