I was in the art class, looking at the naked model in front of me. The quiet chorus of titillation had dulled into a few red faces of the owners of the easels on the outskirts.
The teacher walked around the room, ‘Look at him, draw him as you see the body, not as you think you see the body.’ It made no sense as I stared at his body for what felt like an age. The muscles in his back, the lines of his sides, and shape of his shoulders all seemed unfamiliar.
‘Draw what you see, not what you think you see.’
Stop thinking and draw, I told myself silently.
My eyes barely left his body as I drew, eye to hand, hand to eye. Not looking, not judging, just recording.
Soon I dropped the paper to the ground and started a new version of the body. The teacher walked past.
‘Who did that?’ He asked.
I think it was the first time in my life I haven’t second guessed my ability and actually performed the act of illustrating what was in front of me, and not drawing what I thought I knew. I recorded what was in front of me, not assumed the shape. The second time was when I wrote my first two books.
We draw and write what we think we know. We assume and presume about what is happening based on our own experience and historical data stored in our brain. Once the brain has established the facts that there is a man in front of me that I am supposed to draw, it relies on old data to record it onto the paper. Your brain has so much to process every day, it makes do by guessing much of what is happening around you, which is where the neurological theory of perception and guesstimation/belief comes from, and the theory that perception is hindsight, meaning, you thought an event would happen the way it has, even though there is little evidence of it happening, besides your own belief based on data stored in the brain.
Our bodies and brains are trying to process a flood of data every millisecond. Are we cold, hungry, thirsty? Aching, sad, happy, aroused, excited, bored, worried? There is so much to take in that scientists believe we only process about 1/18th of what is happening at any one moment, and the rest we just make up, according to history, beliefs, and experience. So often, we miss the reality, and actually just make it all up what we perceive to be the reality.
So, what if we stopped over stimulating our brains? What if we took some time out from social media, scrolling through updates on Facebook, or scanning news headlines constantly, that we put on music and turned off the radio in the car. That we looked at the sunset and not the billboard that’s screaming at us to read it. What if we read a book for more than ten pages at a time. That we truly looked at the man’s body, or the child’s face, and we wrote down, or drew what was there, instead of what we thought was there?
What if we listened for a moment and didn’t mine our own lives for an anecdote that outdid the storyteller. What if we asked a question instead? What if we honored the muse and stopped when the sentence came into out head and wrote it down?
I waste time on social media. I share things that aren’t interesting to anyone else or post to assuage my ego. I share as procrastination. I share because I assume and presume and I share because I’m lazy.
So I’m taking a break from sharing. I’m taking a break from scrolling. And I’m taking a break from guessing and spending some time trying to find my benevolentia again.