I begin this blog with the last blog in mind.
For me, a key insight into life, (that life of the ARTIST which informs my IDENTITY), came by way of Ethics. In my last blog, I referred to a sort of inspiration that came out of the early monastic movement in Christendom, and this now dovetails into a look at Ethics.
In Ethics, everything revolves around the making of "good" choices. "Good" is a term we use so much tht the meaning is often vague, (ie., "The film was good"). A "good" is a term used in Ethics to denote an assigned value to an act which produces a product, purpose, or service with a positive value to our own self or another.
Choices we make, then, can be measured "Good" or "Not Good". This tag, to each of us individually, informs "actions" we continue to make, and will make again in the future. In sum, any ACT of willful volition can be evaluated on the basis of its value to us in our pursuit of our own "good" life: it will be either "Positive" or "Not Positive". As artists, we can learn a great deal from this idea that our choices create actions, and the sum total of our actions can be measured.
"If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."
In Part I of this blog, I addressed the obstacles that come against our PERSPECTIVE, such as "doubt", "ambiguity", and "uncertainty". It is clear to us all, naturally, that these are not often valuable, or "not good", where such obstacles--if we give credence to them--throw us adrift, founder us, and gnaw at our core self, our core PERSPECTIVE. This can be quite a shipwreck and cause a "not good" punch in momentum.
Now, in Part II of this blog, I am compelled to address the obstacles that come against our PERSEVERANCE.
While many obstacles come against our "good choices", as mentioned, these can be thwarted by a good PERSPECTIVE; however, we must now have some help in keeping up our forward movement, our PERSEVERANCE. This duality is not lost on most of us! We often must battle these two fronts at the same time.
Along the way of this journey, PERSPECTIVE only stands when we add to it PERSEVERANCE.
I have found that, for me--and maybe this is true for you--that PERSEVERANCE comes under attack much quicker than our PERSPECTIVE of our core identity as artists. Sometimes it is simply neglect and laziness on our part that causes our perseverance to fail, (and so we receive our just desserts and a teachable moment). But when this is not the case, it may seem baffling that our PERSEVERANCE fails first, or that it is the first to jump ship. Perseverance requires discipline. (Lord knows I work on that constantly!)
It is for this reason I brought up in Part I the allusion to the Rule of St. Benedict, (the Regulus Benedictus). WE CANNOT MAKE IT WITHOUT HELP--especially if we work alone--discipline is the life-force of perseverance. Unfortunately, this is not enough; here I must go deeper because perseverance/discipline, given that these traits of internal fortitude are the easiest to take out, these become the easiest to attack. Here, too, (at least for me), I find that I need help.
THE COUNSELS OF PERFECTION (aiding perseverance)
You may recall in Part I that I jotted down three ideas that, if we flesh them out and then focus on them daily, can rise to become our COUNSELS of PERFECTION for our PERSPECTIVE. Here, we need to use similar tools, similar COUNSELS of PERFECTION, to aid our PERSEVERANCE. There are probably many, but I can here name three:
After years of consideration, I think these are the key to perseverance.
I come to it like this: With a solid, core-perspective in place, we know the road before us and hold a vision of our future selves. Of course, with this vision in mind, we mark out the steps from this point forward. It will be tough, but step-by-step and we will make progress and reach our objectives (and then some) through hard-headed perseverance. Thus, we have a lot to learn along the way, a lot of practice, (miles of canvas, miles of charcoal). We are "learners" or "students" the entire journey of our life.
All learners become masters through continual growth, and growth comes to us from the three ideas above: Praise, Duty, Remorse.
Of the three, one is most important and eclipses the other two: Duty.
Duty is obligation. Daily we begin with the obligation to "act" in some way that is "good" for our goals, toward that vision for our "good" life. Duty is often inconvenient; at times it can be drudgery; and too often painful in the spirit, (if not the body). Duty is somewhat pointless if we do not have a plan in place, this is true. Do we have a daily regiment? Do we know what is our next step today? Tomorrow's next step beyond that? If we do, then duty will give to us growth.
The Rule of St. Benedict did this. It governed duty for the monks. Through dutifully fulfilling the obligations of the "Rule", monks grew toward their goals. Again, I am not advocating a strict code, but I would heartily commend each of us to some standard to which we "consecrate" our lives. If a literal Regulus Benedictus is what that will take for any one of us, then let us not delay to do it!
The "Rule" also described how best to utilize the other two elements of learning: Remorse and Praise.
Remember in School, that test where we REALLY wanted a good grade but knew we didn't study enough to achieve one. We get the test back and it is even worse than we realized! When this happened to me in college, (especially when it happened despite my best effort), I felt a great deal of remorse. It was then that I had one of the most important breakthroughs of my life, where I had to "re-invent" how I looked at learning, [see a earlier blog "Protean Paradigm" for more]. Remorse showed me that, though I was applying effort, from honest effort came no "good" return. Old paradigms had to end, and new paradigms had to be invented. Thus, Remorse served as a vital learning tool for me. It showed me how to calibrate (then keep calibrated) Duty.
The last element is Praise. Praise also helps us calibrate Duty. Never be ashamed for receiving praise of "good" work. What is the effect? We desire more of that, especially when Praise is administered to us through a sale of a painting or piece of art. Praise is affirming, but like Remorse, it is only a way to calibrate Duty. It is affirming to us, it indicates THIS is the direction, keep at it, always leading us back to duty.
Notice again, "duty" (daily discipline in the right direction) is central to everything!
In sum, Remorse is an alert to us that we must INVENT a change of tactic, strategy, or paradigm. Praise is an alert to us that we are applying our duty in the right direction.
I believe if we can embrace these precepts, (though we are far from perfect in doing so), but if we can keep at it, PERSEVERANCE will seldom fall under the weight of attack again.
These are, to me, the best counsels toward realizing the dream of my life, my Counsels of Perfection.
All the best,
Jeff in Kansas City