Art makes me notice things Mar 2, 2009 Link passed on by my cousin Barby, stop-motion video whose clothing animals (bird shirts, sock fish) made me grin. And then happy-face clouds. Blowing soap bubbles with helium and then glomming them into a happy-face shape before setting them aloft. Beautiful. One reason art makes me happy - not hyperactive or excited (though that sometimes happens too), but the sort of slow smile that spreads from the inside - is that it makes me notice things. It makes me more aware. Someone has seen the world this way; I could also see the world in different ways. Someone has, with great skill, made their thoughts real; I can use my own techniques for making and make little changes in the world. There are so many things to notice. Right now, the scratchy wool of the jacket at the back of my neck; the tension in my shoulders (now relaxing), the smell, taste, viscosity, and mouthfeel of herbal tea steeped in warm soymilk. How cold is softly through my sock when I step on the tile floor. How long my hair is now, curling behind my ears, kicking up against my neck, neatly chopped layers four months grown out into a shaggy casualness. I usually don't notice those things. I usually don't notice that I'm not noticing them. And then someone points out - not telling in words, but showing in actions or creations - how light passes through the icing of a cake, or how the tension in the muscles of my arm affect a lindy spin, or that the speckled shells of quail eggs are beautiful in soft focus, that the bouquet of bubbling cheese stands out against the rustic crunch of yeasty toast, or that a certain combination of notes played right here lights up a chord transition. There's something important in the showing-not-telling, because I get to find it on my own, and in the process of searching and understanding that, I'm also able to remind myself that I can and should remind myself to search and find things on my own in the rest of my life. Right now I'm noticing the changes in my mind, my life, my way of being and thinking, that only come out after a long period of (relative) relaxation. This is the longest I haven't been driven by a single something. This is the most I have relaxed since 6th grade when I started pulling allnighters (self-imposed - it's when I started constantly being on fire for work that I was doing). I'm actually learning how to not burn at both ends. (Well, it was probably more like "wrap candle in rags doused in kerosene, embed firecrackers throughout, hurl constantly into volcano while spraying with blowtorch...") It's hard because it's not hard, but I'm learning not to struggle, and learning... it's not learning not to learn, but learning how to let a different sort of learning happen. Hard to describe. More serendipity. Less goal-driven. Less worrying about thinking, more thinking. Less monkey mind. Oddly enough, I'm simultaneously becoming more clear about my goals and processes and habits and resource-management strategies, but in a way that doesn't feel regimented. I really have no point of comparison for this, but I think this might be what people talk about when they say vacations make you more productive, renew you, and all that stuff. I guess I always used them as times to cram more projects in at the edges. I think I'm spending a lot of time on them (these things that must seem really boring and obvious to everybody else - handling procrastination, saying no, prioritizing, how I deal with schedules, how I deal with conflict) because I want them to become ingrained, unconscious - so that down the line when I'm on fire for a project again I won't have to stop and think "so do I add this to my calendar, and how?" I'll have gone through that debate and that experimentation and those rounds of falling flat on my face while trying to implement a system. I'm going through them now. I've actually had brief - very, very brief - flashes of time when I've been content doing nothing. Really, really weird. But... nice. A side of life I haven't seen much. A side of me I haven't grown much. A former almost-zero that's being balanced out a little. Even if I never come back here, I'll know I've been at this point, and that it exists somewhere for me. Art helps me get there.