Still Learning to Be
I am an artist, but ever since I was a little girl I can only draw what I see directly in front of me. I cannot create from my imagination. Until reading about contemplation for class this week, I truly had no idea why this annoyance plagues me. After reading Jesuit theologian Walter Burghardt’s article, A Long, Loving Look at the Real, I realized that I cannot retrieve images from my memory because I do not look long enough at anything to remember it. I am sad to say that my life is the antithesis of contemplation. I have joined the ranks of the majority in America and have become a human doing rather than the human being I was born to be. Considering my artistic dilemma goes back to my childhood, I have a feeling this has been the case since then.
Six years ago my husband and I went to Ireland for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. It was a dream that I had for many, many years. We rented a car and drove all around that beautiful island for seven days. It was everything I hoped it would be, but I didn’t know how to savor it. We drove from town to town, from one exquisite scene to another, snapping photos and moving on to the next place. One day we went to the Cliffs of Mohr. We drove for hours in anticipation to get there. When we finally parked at the top of the Cliffs, we looked for a few moments and then said: “Okay, now what do we do?!” There was nothing to “do” there — only to see. We took a few photos and moved on within minutes from a place I longed to be half of my life because I didn’t know what I was supposed to “do” there. I didn’t know how to enjoy “a long, loving look at the real.” If I did, I might have had an image in my memory to paint when I returned home.
This dilemma of not looking and seeing is not the only indicator of my non-contemplative life. I have difficulty “wasting” time in play, and I do not enjoy festivities at all because I have always felt guilty just relaxing when I could be doing something productive instead. I’m certain there are plenty of psychological theories that could explain my behavior; however, I have already begun the practice of undoing the damage. Yesterday as I sat out on my balcony with a book I heard some geese honking overhead. My apartment is on the fourth floor so they sounded quite loud and fairly close to me. It took me a few minutes to remember to stop and look up, but I finally did and noticed beautiful flocks of geese flying in wild V formations so close that I could distinguish the black wings and white bellies! I just looked — long and lovingly — and I even have the image in my mind to draw. Imagine that!
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