In residency last sumner for my MFA program I attended a lecture where the faculty talked about being an artist and experiencing the world differently. I think she alluded to “seeing”, but I think it applies to all the senses. If you can see the world differently, then you can most certainly hear the world differently and taste and touch and smell too. I think this is an interesting topic. I desire to experience the world differently. The question immediately following is what is considered “different”. In her lecture she went into this a bit and talked through the difference between describing a plant, a peony I believe, with a textbook description versus an artist description.
You have to take time to consider everything about the peony. It’s not just about the way it looks, how big and what color, but how it lives and grows. The tendencies of the plant and its history. What it thinks and feels. That last statement seems to take it too far, but not really. You have to push past the normal way of thinking. You have to question everything and unlearn what we are all programmed with from a very early age.
In my view, that programming is somewhat necessary. It’s provided the building blocks for understanding. It’s the collective consciousness finding common denominators. We are taught language and definitions and how to classify and categorize things. We learn how to fit things into boxes with words and a big part of that is so that we have a solid foundation and can successfully communicate with the people around us.
Our brains and souls are all very different and we inherently think differently. Our experiences are also very different and so the context of our personal thought processes vary widely. The education and upbringing we are indoctrinated with shape how we look at things and how we hear and what we think. The more we have in common, the easier it is to communicate and make connections.
Therefore, these common ways of thinking are required for a fully functioning society. We have to have some mutual understanding or we’d all be walking around in our own little worlds unable to make forward progress as a people. The trade off, however, is that along the way we lose some of the natural ways of thinking that we were born with.
In essence, our brains are retrained and part of what is sacrificed in this process, I believe, are those unique pathways that are able to see and interpret and understand differently. I would propose, however, that these alternate patterns and processes are not really lost. They are just buried deep within the soft tissues of our brains. The human brain is an amazing organ and a massive data collecting machine. Science has theorized that we humans use only 10% of our total brain power. That leaves so much untapped potential. Given this, it’s not a stretch to say that the original programming we have as children still exists somewhere in there. The accessibility is severed and the conscious self rewires the connections to lead to the newly learned thought processes.
If this is true, then those original ways of thinking can be found, or rather, re-discovered. We can put effort towards this objective and uncover layers of context and thought that are deeper than the common understandings that we have all been taught. In doing so, we are connecting with that part of ourselves that is capable of “seeing” like an artist. We can relearn how to consider a peony and all of the qualities that make it unique. We can see beyond the green, bushy foliage and dense blooms of pink and purple and white.
We can uncover nature’s design for its existence. The way the blooms become so heavy with themselves the stalks droop to the ground. The way that ants are drawn to the plant and swarm the blooms, attracted to the sweet vibrations of it’s nectar. The joy they feel with this symbiotic relationship and the inevitable sadness as the spring season comes to a close and those heavy flowers, no matter what color, turn brown and wither. We can, if we put in some measure of effort in, discover how a peony thinks and feels.
Make no mistake, however, it’s not easy and truly does take time and effort and a focused intention to get there. A person can’t just wake up one day and decide to see the world differently. Well, they can decide they want that, but in order to get there, it takes work. What that path looks like is a whole other essay entirely. In short though, It takes blood, sweat, and apparently lots of tears. It requires time and experience, and yes, even practice.
Connecting that with poetry and the writer’s life, it becomes almost essential to maximize one’s potential. Every poem is a work of art and those alternate pathways contribute greatly to any body of work. To write like a poet, one must live like a poet and love like a poet. They must be able to experience the world on many different levels, with all the senses engaged and in a particular frame of mind or rather, with a more open mind.
Understanding this and desiring it are the first steps in the right direction, especially for a person like myself who was not brought up to value the artistry in music, or nature, or words. I’m certainly not professing that I’ve got it all figured out, but am now well on my way. There’s a limitless amount of discovery and rediscovery ahead and the prospect of that fills my cup. I want to fully immerse myself in exploration of thinking differently and in doing so, hope to create some beautiful art of my own.
Peace and Love,