"There is no place I know, like the world of pure imagination," how true these #1 iconic words sung by the great dreamer himself, Willy Wonka. He created magic lands and candy dreams all based on the premise that our straight-laced world of checks and balances is boring and unimaginative and that true life essence happens in all the places in between.
To me, this is the epitome of living an artful life. Artists have known this for centuries. Artists are the ones who tend to see what is not there on the surface, to find beauty in unusual places, to create that which has not been there before, and to help us see ourselves and our world with a new lens.
But artists aren't just the painters and the poets, the dancers, and the actors. Those that innovate, push the envelope, take risks, use their intuition, think outside of the box...these everyday people, in all sectors, are artists in their own right and our world needs them now more than ever. In today's global market where work is outsourced and competition stretches across land and sea, it will be the artists and innovators, the creatives, who will move us to the next level. These out of the box thinkers and doers will be the ones who will see what the world needs now and they will find new and exciting ways to answer the call and create solutions to current problems and future possibilities.
Inherent inside the artistic mind is seeing things in multiple ways rather than just black and white, taking into account multiple perspectives. With that in mind, living artfully means honoring the collaboration of ideas, the recognition of all who have come before you, the inner connectedness of all people, the greater picture. The world is bigger than our individual lives and when we acknowledge that we can begin to find both our personal contribution to the larger picture and we can learn to release a lot of stress and anxiety.
To me, living an artful life also means living with grace; the ability to look at others with all their gifts and all their flaws and accept them with grace. Accept that we are all doing our best. When you meet someone who has that certain je ne sais quoi, that hidden inner spark radiating from them, dig a little deeper and I suspect they have at least 3 contributing factors going for them. First, they are in tune with themselves. They have done some reflective work to discover what makes them happy, who they are, what their gifts are. This doesn't mean they don't have things they want to change or that their life is perfect and every day is mind-blowingly happy! Just that they have found some peace inside their own skin and they are sensitive to seeing how they can be of service for good in the world and lives of others by using their gifts. Which brings me to number two: they have a perspective of looking at the world with awe and wonder. They slow down and notice nature, not just the jaw-dropping sunsets either, but the soft roll of the hills, the flower beginning to bloom, the perfect progression of an ant colony as it goes about its collective work. They notice the nuances of the world and they see things that most people miss. And thirdly, they see the beauty and uniqueness in other human beings. These people likely thrive on how different we all are and they embrace that wonderful truth.
These days living artfully, as defined in all the ways above, comes to me most from the amazing courageous clients I work with at A Place To Be. At APTB we use the therapeutic arts to help people navigate their lives and the varied challenges that all of us face in different ways. Many of my clients have challenges like Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, and Autism. Many of them have invisible disabilities or diseases like learning disabilities, Lyme disease, cancer, processing delays, eating disorders, and anxiety. Still, others struggle with bullying, shyness, fitting in, finding their voice, finding their passion and their place in the world. Their brave pursuits are awe inspiring. Vulnerability is one of their greatest gifts; compassion for others one of their greatest lessons.
Last week we had a guest visit a group of our young people at A Place To Be. This gentleman has served in three wars and is home now working on rebuilding his life. He shared his struggles with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and anxiety and he shared that one way he is learning to cope is to cultivate patience. He began to observe the natural world around him and sit for hours being patient as he watched the light change in a field, as he watched a sunrise over a pond. His photographs are a testament to that patience and to seeing things of beauty all around. He then took our diverse group of kids out for them to experience seeing with new eyes right outside our front door on our block in Middleburg. The kids grabbed their I-Phones and headed out the door to sit in stillness and observe. They took a moment to take in the beauty around them, to listen to their own inner sense of what was beautiful to them. They felt alive, present, and creative. They also felt seen.
Today, living artfully to me means embracing all differences, learning from the gifts and strengths of other people as I watch them fight to walk or to breathe, to be accepted or to create something new, to love and to dream. Speaking of dreamers, one of our nations most prolific dreamers, Walt Disney, knew how to live an artful life and his magic has endured for a reason. Mr. Disney created against all odds. He pushed when others said no. He took risks and thought outside the box. He assembled great teams and tapped into their creativity and gifts. He had visions for how the world could be different and he set about to bring those visions to life. He inspired through his actions and his way of seeing: "we keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
I am grateful for curiosity and wonder and look forward to where the path leads next! Beauty right outside our door!