I’ve been doing a little painting lately and a thought occurred to me.
Think back to Chariots of Fire. Remember when what’s his name, the fastest one, said, “I feel God’s pleasure when I run.”? I have friends that say that they feel God’s pleasure when they paint. I’m not one of them.
When I paint, I am at war.
I am at war with the canvas, with the paint, with shading, with fingers, with light, with everything. I become obsessed by the task. Time disappears. I can’t talk. I don’t want to sleep. I must get it right.
Painting is hard work and takes a lot of emotional energy. For me.
So why do I do it? Well, I don’t do it often, but every now and then I really want to see if I can capture what I’m feeling – transferring an emotion from internal and invisible to something external and visual. Without losing anything in translation.
Maybe it’s impossible. But I have been lucky a time or two – happy accidents that add depth, etc. And I think those successes spur me on. And perhaps make me a bit cocky as to my actual skills. But there must some kind of pay-off for me to try again and again.
Photography is different, even though it does help me transfer emotions to images – I love the warm soft focus I get when I use the macro lens on flowers. It calms me. I love it. Perhaps my photography is less of me re-creating emotions, and more of creation creating emotions. If that makes sense.
As for the “feel God’s pleasure when I run” feeling, I’d have to say I come closest to that when I write. I feel free and fast and I make me laugh, even when I write sad stuff. Sometimes you can’t help but see how comical the struggle of man is. Who was it who said something like, from a distance life is a comedy, up close it’s a tragedy? When I write, my sadness or struggles move from a close-up to a long-shot. I suppose.
(I only wish I could remember what I write the next day. Once it’s out of my head and out my fingers, it’s gone.) (Which reminds me, forgive me if I’ve said all this before…)
Anyway, we all have things that we do that feel easy and fun, that for others isn’t easy or fun. It’s hard to imagine some of those things as ever being easy and fun. And I’ve noticed that sometimes it’s hard for those who are “a natural” at something to understand others struggling with it. “Just paint what you see.” “Just sing what you hear.” “Just figure the amounts in your head.” “Just write what you’re thinking.”
I think it’s good to cross over into the harder areas every now and then. Sure, anybody can paint, but can they paint well? Maybe. And if they work hard at it, probably. Though they may never feel God’s pleasure doing it to the extend that others do. But who knows? Maybe they will.
I know that the joy I feel when I get a painting “right” is very satisfying. I can look at it and say, “Wow, I love that!” without it being all about my own skill or talent. In fact, it may have been pure sweat and some happy accidents. It’s a lot of fun and very freeing to enjoy the product of your work without a lot of ego attached, except for the surprised, “Wow, I did that?”
I only wish I could un-attach my ego when the product looks like crap.
But then maybe I would stop trying. Maybe the struggle is good, too.
So, God bless the ego, for how it can make us work a little harder. And may God certainly banish it when it gets too hard on us or puffed up. Amen.