Live According To Your Necessity

a detail of a painting I did in honor of Dawson's arrival on earth

a detail of a painting I did in honor of Dawson’s arrival on earth

“Depending upon the lens you look through, I have been a miserable failure at everything I’ve ever done,” I said. Arnie protested but we both knew it was, to a certain extent, true. And, since our conversation I have been gazing through that certain lens and feeling my failure acutely.

This lens is not new to me. I visit it each year as my birthday rolls around. It is a lens that most artists visit from time to time. To their peril. Recently, Chris, one of the most talented and hardworking actors I know, told me that now that he is far down the road of his career, no longer a beginner, he has surrendered the idea, imperative or illusion of economic success. “I work because I have to,” he said. It makes no sense and is impossible to explain to someone who does not have “that” impossible intrinsic driver. The incentives are internal. The rewards are internal. The achievements are mastery landmarks and not monetary rewards. It looks like insanity through the lens of a profit/loss, money=morality society.

When I look through the failure lens I’ve learned I need to visit Rainier Maria Rilke. I need to seek the advice of a master. “Nobody can counsel you or help you. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would die if it were denied you to write. This above all – ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And, if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity;….”

...closer in

…closer in

My life is built upon this necessity. No amount of comparing it to others is useful. No other lens is healthy. Since moving to Kenosha from Seattle, I am fond of telling people that in my move I committed economic suicide. That is a statement made looking through the wrong lens. Here is the truth: Since my move I have published my book, The Seer. I produced and performed in what I thought was the greatest heart-project of my life, The Lost Boy. It played to sold out houses and fulfilled a decade long journey and commitment to Tom. Two months later I did what I now think was the the greatest heart-project of my life when I illustrated and Kerri and I published Beaky’s books, The Shayne Trilogy. Beaky had an author’s reading a mere two weeks before her passing. Last year I authored drew and submitted with Kerri over 25 cartoon proposals to syndicates. We are completing work on our next play, The Road Trip. And, in the middle of it all, I’ve done arguably the best paintings of my life. I am meeting my question with a simple and strong “I must.”

What is failure? What is success? They are lenses and they matter not.

I am living and building my life “according to this necessity.”

The whole painting.

The whole painting.

 

Be The Detail

I took photo and used this image in The Seer.

I took photo and used this image in The Seer.

When I shared the early chapters of The Seer with friends, their feedback was universal: I was trying to say too much. They asked me to break it down into smaller bites. At first I resisted because I couldn’t see the path to smaller bites! In time I was able to step back and see what they were telling me. All of the necessary connective tissue was in my mind; I was filling in the thought-gaps. My wise-eyed readers had no access to my mental filler and saw a story riddled with gaps.

It was a valuable lesson for me. What I see is never what others see. Even when we share an experience, it is false to suppose that we had the same experience. We share. That is a much different thing than assuming sameness. When I think I am being clear, when I think that my point of view is right, I remember the gaps. I am projecting content and context filler onto every experience and so are all the other people in the room.

Perception is at best a moving target. This simple principle is what makes art so necessary and science so exciting. Newton thought he was dealing in absolutes. He was describing a universe based on uncontestable fixed principles. And then came Einstein. We see from and through a context that we like to call “truth” but, it is at best relative. Is it a particle or a wave? Well, it depends…

I used to facilitate an exercise called Mask Mingle. It is a powerful way to open eyes and hearts to the grace that we grant ourselves but rarely grant to others: specificity of story. We cannot walk through our days without carrying the specificity of our experiences and the rolling, roiling interpretations and re-interpretations of those experiences that we call ‘memory.’ No one can see what we’ve done and where we’ve been. No one sees the joy, the hurt, the dreams, the losses, the fears, the perseverance. They cannot see the detail. The best they can do is interpret us through their lens. We will always be a generality in the eyes of others.

I find that central to much of what I write about and coach about is the surrender of what other people might think. It is a fallacy to think that you can determine what others think of you. You will never see through their eyes. You will never know their lens. It is a powerful moment when an artist (or anyone) realizes that they have no control over the perception of others. The best they can do is offer their gift from their unique, unknowable, rich, point of view. That moment is called artistic freedom.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.