Saturday, August 27, 2011

Limitation As the Stuff of Art

Ah, a blank piece of paper, a two hour time slot totally allotted to writing, the rare treat of a quiet house … Shall I work on one of my novels, on one of the philosophical ideas I would like to develop, or come up with something informational or pithy for my blog? The possibilities are endless when you have a blank piece of paper and a blank time slot. But why does it so often happen that the end result is a blank mind?

It may be that the blank mind is a direct result of the endlessness of the possibilities. There is nothing for the mind to fix on and to form. Human beings are by nature limited, but with the wonderful capacity to work within the limits of their nature and environment. The modern world is rife with devices to overcome the limits of nature and environment. We have airplanes and air conditioning. The modern mind is conditioned to believe that any sort of restraint is an attack on personal freedom and creativity.

“If you can imagine it you can achieve it. If you can believe it you can become it.” Thus, proclaimed an inspirational poster that hung in my room when I was a teenager. That isn’t true, and I wish some one would have told me that it's not true in a constructive way when I was still young. As I get older, I wonder if the limits of our personalities and circumstances are obstacles that we must overcome to achieve our dreams or the material that we were given to create a unique work of art where dreams and reality are interwoven in a kind of tapestry or dance. I think that the latter view is healthier and more exciting.

Life is like art. The artist and the artisan work within the limits of a given medium. Watercolors have limits and possibilities that acrylics do not have. The limits of watercolor, as well as its possibilities, give it its particular beauty. Wool produces artifacts of a certain kind. Wool has its own beauty and usefulness. It cannot do the kind of things that clay does, and we are grateful for that.

Let us not waste time and energy fretting that things are not as we wish that they were. Let us instead start molding the clay that we have into beautiful new pottery.

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