Saturday, July 25, 2015

Comparison Is a Trap (some Thoughts On Art As Spiritual Practice)

toddler drawing on dresser mirror with lipstick
pastel on coffee-stained watercolor paper
11.5" x 8.5

Available for purchase
For me the creation of art is a spiritual practice, and I'll return to this theme again and again. One of the primary features of that spiritual practice is transcendence over ego. I want to emphasize the word "practice" here, meaning that my expectation of myself and of others is not perfection, but process. It's an effort that's renewed constantly while I exist in this physical space-time reality.

Ego means giving in to childhood trauma-based voices of "not good enough" "better than" "less than". If one doesn't proceed from the standpoint of LOVE -- of one's own creative inherent nature, of connectedness to the creative inherent nature of others, of the need to express and be part of the change of human experience -- then one falls into the trap of comparison. That's ego-based. 

Lately, in my art creation process, I'm striving for spontaneity and rapidness of execution. This has always in previous times been problematic, if not downright impossible. I've determined that ego plays a part in this. When you make art rapidly with a traditional permanent medium like ink, there's little opportunity to cover up "mistakes" as I make them. The same for doing art in a social setting, such as a figure drawing session.

Will others like it? Not like it? Think badly of me? Think me "less than" or "not good enough"? What is my motivation for making this piece? Am I proceeding from love and collaboration, a desire to work with others? Or am I just self-aggrandizing, shoring up personal insecurities? 

Closely tied to competition and comparison ("better than" "lesser than") is performance. These are ego-based, and a waste of my creative time and energy.

I've been making art all my life, some six decades now. I have many accomplishments and life experiences, important thoughts that need to be heard -- and seen. Yet the voices of childhood hurt still cry out at times. That's ego. 

At the same time, I would assert that it's counterproductive to beat up on the ego. It serves a purpose, and while a child or young person, it does its best with what it has at the time, often as an integral part of "survival mode". Now I honor it, tell it be calm, but it's time to let me -- the aware creative adult -- drive the bus now. 

Are you familiar with Joseph Campbell's (and other's) presentations on the Hero's Journey? For me, that's the journey that's best taken with every work of art. I'm every character in Oz -- Dorothy, her friends, the witches, the Wizard -- all of them. Ego is friend and enemy at the same time. Ultimately the creation of art involves conflict, resolve, resolution, transformation and return; and then I do it all over again. See? It doesn't end.

There are ways to transform the struggle with ego into artistic subjects in themselves; but again it has to done from the standpoint of love and the sharing of transformative processes.

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