There is always the thing behind the thing.
When I share pictures of modern day still life I do so because of what I am capturing by witnessing the present aesthetics and how they affect my mind.
The nicely designed book with a striking color on my table, with the right proportionality and height as it rests cleanly.
The coffee mug while sitting in the coffee shop with the unfocused background breaking streams of light through, providing hints to background activity and beauty.
The mixing of overheard conversations in public, providing a different symphony each time.
This is the thing behind the thing. Caught well in the present, my impulse is to share a scene because of the way the overall moment has descended on me while I observe.
In Ryan Holiday’s book Stillness Is The Key, he writes the following on becoming present:
We want to learn to see the world like an artist: While other people are oblivious to what surrounds them, the artist really sees. Their mind, fully engaged, notices the way a bird flies or the way a stranger holds their fork or a mother looks at her child. They have no thoughts of the morrow. All they are thinking about is how to capture and communicate this experience. (P 28)
Ryan perfectly describes what is happening in my mind. But I only get there when I have done the extremely hard task he lays out, which is to become present to the moment I am in, not thinking of the future, not dwelling on the past.
The background mechanics of me becoming infatuated with the height and right angles of a book sitting on my table helps me engage even further with the cacophony of thoughts swirling in my mind. But it doesn’t stop the mind. It allows for intense deep work to be engaged.
Like the Muse described by Steven Pressfield, the real work begins to descend on me. It enters me and then I just have to respond. I have to write out a draft of a blog post. I have to put several ideas together finally about something I was neglecting. I have to respond.
The contrast of the dark stain on the riser table with the light color of the wood on the main table, along with the aroma of my morning coffee and crisp book cover……..yeah this is all ‘the thing behind the thing.’ I might actually get more out of the morning not ‘doing’ anything but simply sitting there and observing.
We need to observe the present. The day we have been given. The sights in front of us. The sounds we can hear. We must take things a day and a moment at a time.
Ryan goes on to say “An artist is present. And from this stillness comes brilliance.” This brilliance is beyond hard to describe. Which constitutes the work to be done. Which is why we sit still observing what is around us and relaying it back.
I want to keep getting to this place of being present and transmit what I find.