What makes it good?

Right now I’m thinking about dance, which I’ve enjoyed and done for a lifetime, but this could apply to pretty much any creative or expressive endeavour. There are many elements to any form of expression. Some are skill based, but just being theoretically competent or even talented doesn’t necessarily make someone ‘good’ or their work mesmerising. Of course there’s also a huge element of taste. What moves me may leave you cold, or even offend you. Sometimes incredibly naive and unskilled work can have a surprising impact. Some are naturally talented, others have to strive to produce work of even meagre quality, but then again that work may be powerfully insightful or to have a far greater impact than the theoretically ‘good’.

Someone said to me recently (about a dancer) that the one who was the most noticeable and impressive was the one who fully inhabited her body, and I can see and appreciate something along those lines may be at the heart of the matter. I know when I paint, or dance (or do pretty much anything), it’s the times I lose myself, where I feel like a conduit or lose all sense of self consciousness, where I (forgive the terminology) feel to become one with whatever I’m doing when it seems I produce my best work.

Maybe there’s a parallel there between reaching the point of being able to do any skill (driving for example) as second nature, where you don’t have to think about it so you pretty much extend your body to the shape and size of the car and your limbs and senses become extensions of the various tools you need to manoeuvre the car.

Some people have skills and gifts which leave most breathtaken, even if they may not like whatever it is. I can look at some art and know I could never in a million years produce work of that technical quality. But I also sometimes wonder why they didn’t just save themselves the bother and take a photo. It’s that spark, that indefinable quality, which makes something good, imo, whether or not the person doing it has amazing skills or none at all. But what that something is….well, that’s not only open to debate but also perhaps ultimately impossible to pin down. Maybe that’s what makes it so attractive.

Look me in the eye

It’s quite strange, the position we view from, and the position from which we might expect to be viewed. By and large we  probably don’t notice because there’ll generally be a common theme, our position in our lives and society pretty much predictable. But whether we’re looked up to or down upon, whether we’re lauded and revered or criticised and despised there’s a falsehood and unrealistic assumption there.

Which of us knows everything? Yet if we’re looked to for answers we can tend to play the role, and to wing it even if we don’t have a clue what we’re talking about, and perhaps also may tend to conceal our vulnerabilities, even if the sharing of them may help both ourselves and others, or to tend to defend our position rather than keep our ears open for real learning and growing, which would realistically enhance the position we have. Conversely, if we’re someone who is considered clueless, for whatever reason (age, lack of experience, lack of education, disability etc), or we feel badly about ourselves, or we find it hard to be articulate, then even if we come out with something of great merit it’s likely to be ignored (including by us), or we may consider ourselves to be invisible, or without value or worth. But whether looked up to or down upon it’s likely we’ll be quite taken aback, quite possibly angry or confused, when our imagined position is ignored or we’re treated differently from that which we expect.

Yet realistically, however long we’ve been around, however much we’ve worked at it, however much natural insight we may have, we are not superior; and however young, inexperienced, damaged or disabled we have something to bring to the table. If and when we refuse to hear or see it otherwise we are not only in error but we’ve taken the unrealistic strategy of imagining we’re separate from it all. We are not.

Our intelligence is our weakest link

Sometimes I look at all the pontificating that goes on, the assumptions we as humans, as (theoretically, arrogantly) the most intelligent species, are also gods, in a position to choose for all life, to make value judgements on life itself, and then carry out our masterplans, to impose them on all life, whatever they happen to be, and of course that changes depending on the time and philosophical climate we’re in. I find it both interesting and disturbing that if we don’t do this under the guise of acting on behalf of an omnipotent being we elevate ourselves to omnipotence, whilst failing to realise we’re embroiled in what we’re trying to observe and therefore cannot see it with any real clarity, nor are we little gods. Our weapon of mass destruction is our brain, and our apparently largely inbuilt arrogance which assumes whatever we happen to believe is the ultimate reality and we have dominion over it, our idiocy. This, to me, is an exquisitely stupid intelligence, one which places its ego at the very heart of existence. We deify ourselves if we have no external deity. One way or another it seems we find ourselves in need of authority over life, even though that’s patently absurd.

It’s a curious anomaly, because if we were able to realise that as part of everything, a very small part at that, we are an essential element of it all, but not a god over it, not only  might we start to move with greater care and discretion, we might also learn to appreciate it more. I find it fascinating that man seems to require individual gods, whether that’s some externalised all powerful being or himself. It’s the rare individual who dares be a cell in the entire organism.

We find ourselves so clever we believe we can seek after truth and arrive there, then impose our wisdom on life as if we stand outside it. How can it be truth if we do not exist within it? As I see it, we are an element of truth, and must surrender to that fact. That doesn’t mean we should then behave unthinkingly, for we have these minds and can learn to use them well, if we were just able to see how very small we really are, and how our impositions tend only to harm. It’s both simpler and more complex than we can imagine. But we have an element within us, an alchemical essence which could make such a difference, and I will not name it, for those who think themselves gods because of their minds would not understand, and those who already know it do not need me to.

in our own image