Monday, August 23, 2010

Take time to look

This amazing work of art was found lying on a table in one of the craft rooms at the camp.  I ignored it the first day I was there, as it had no pride of place and just looked like a bunch of spatters.

The second day, my daughter discovered it and showed it to me, and suddenly, when I took the time to really look at it,  I saw what a marvel it was.  We were enchanted, and ended up moving it to a back table against the wall so it wouldn't get accidentally wrecked by any of the craft projects going on around it.

I heard her asking the next day if anyone knew who had done it; I never heard if she got a reply.  And the morning I left, I stopped by to retrieve one of my projects, and it was still there in the corner, loose and unclaimed; I find myself wondering if its artist had any idea of its value -- after all, I didn't even notice it the first time I saw it.

Which raises any number of questions about what conveys value.  How much of value is innate, and how much is in presentation? How many of the initial assumptions that we make about an object or person are based on its surroundings? And how often do we take the time to really look at something or someone, to actually notice what they might have to offer?

In my readings for class this morning we are studying cultural attitudes, and one of the subjects addressed was time: Do you view time as scarce, or plentiful?  Monochronic or polychronic?  We've all heard stories of American travelers who get frustrated with how slow things sometimes are in other cultures: that's because in our culture we view time as scarce, something to be carefully spent and saved, to be planned and managed and schedules.  But for other cultures, where time is viewed as plentiful, people tend to take their time, avoid scheduling constraints, "go with the flow."

Though I've lived for many years now on islands, notorious for what we call "Island Time," I've been realizing that I tend to live my life in a hectic forward rush.  That rush seems to be internally constructed for me: I think it's why I prefer to live on an island, and get sort of panicky when I'm in a tightly scheduled situation, trying to catch a plane or finish an important project -- the internal drive magnifies the external pressure, and my heart begins to race.

I also, like most Westerners, tend to operate in polychronic mode, what my computer-engineer husband calls "parallel processing."  I read while I eat, interrupt conversations to answer phone calls, knit during classes and meetings -- and know, at some deep level, that I need to really begin practicing a more sequential, monochronic lifestyle, to "carry one bowl with two hands, not two bowls in one hand."  But a lifetime of patterning makes that a difficult transition; I can't begin to imagine how challenging that will become for our children, having grown up in a world of tweets, texts and cellphones.

I think that's one of the major reasons I was so drawn to the writings of Eckhart Tolle: they felt like a clear invitation to stop, be present and appreciate.  So I invite you today to look around you, notice your surroundings.  See if there's something there you haven't noticed before; some value you've missed; some gift you've never bothered to unwrap.  Try -- if only for a few minutes -- to step off the treadmill you've set for yourself and just breathe.  Take it all in, let it go, and breathe.

Something wonderful is probably waiting there for you, much closer than you realized.  You just need to take time to look.


Maureen said...

I hope the artist of that image stays with his or her art, receives the encouragement to prompt the artmaking. It's a wonderful piece.

Kimberly Mason said...

We are such sisters. I, too, thrive on "Island time" but I tend to put myself into situations where I have a deadline looming and my heart races, and, even worse, by thinking starts to get muddled as soon as I have the slightest interruption.

Newspaper writing isn't helping all that - or, wait, is it? Hmmm, something to think about, definitely.

When I first saw the image you posted my heart did a little leap of recognition. Love the image.

Louise Gallagher said...

FAbulous image.

And yes -- time is plentiful but my outlook is limiting its expansive nature.

I took ellie for a walk today along the ridge above the river and sat and looked at a wildflower for a long time -- just to 'learn' it, just to see it.

It was great fun-- and fascinating too. How many greens and yellow and ochres there can be all in one flower.

Thanks for the inspiration.