Category Archives: Philosophy

Back to reality, here comes gravity

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.

‘Me.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes.’

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.

En avant.

 

 

 

 

The Stoic’s Guide to 2017

Starting a New Year is filled with anticipatory anxiety. Who will die this year?  Will I lose the weight this year? Will I find the perfect lover? Will I clear out the junk drawer?

So many expectations and yet so many surprises come and smash us in the face year after year and we’re in shock. This wasn’t on the “To-Do list,” we moan. Of course, it wasn’t on any list, no one writes down:

  • Bury Dad
  • Find lump
  • Attempt suicide
  • Have car crash
  • Get robbed.

I find standard goal setting is futile in an uncertain world. My 2016 was better because I had no idea what my year would look like, instead, I just worked hard on myself and stayed open to opportunities,  and I certainly didn’t have any presumptions about what the year was supposed to bring me.  I am not #blessed, as some like to write on Instagram. As though they were chosen above all other to have such bliss enter their life. I am not blessed. And for the record neither are you.

I have experienced two years of drama, and every time another blow came, I just shook it off and kept going. Not because I am so amazing but because I didn’t have a choice.

So, if I have learned anything from my two years of cataclysm and calamity, it is simply that you cannot predict an outcome, you can only control your role in the process and nothing more.

This week, I spoke to a friend whose child is undergoing serious and potentially life ending treatment for cancer.

“Stoicism wins the day. You can control your part of the process in your son’s life but nothing more. Stay centered and process driven. 🏹🏆”

Now here is my list on how to set goals like a Stoic and be a process driven machine.

  1. Write down what you want to do.
  2. Assess the current state of your situation.
  3. Where are your weaknesses?
  4. Where do you need to improve?
  5. What can you do to turn the weaknesses into strengths?
  6. How will your life have to change?
  7. What will you do when people question or even mock you?
  8. And finally, how will achieving this goal push you towards being the person you want to be?

Let’s look at this in relation to  a real goal.

Perhaps your goal is to have a book published.

If you are setting stoic goals, the goal would be not to be published but instead, the noble goal of bringing you closer to your fated self.  To write something that you are proud of,  that you hope will help people or bring enjoyment to others.

To write something that is the result of you pushing yourself to become a better writer with each draft, to assess your writing, and your process and see where it can improve.

Take a writing course, read more, make more time to do both of these, so perhaps you have to give up watching television two nights of the week. Will your loved ones support you in this? Will they step up to help you reach the goals of becoming a focused, principled, learned writer?

Get it?

And will this bring you to the initial, naive goal of being published? Who knows? If the Fates allow, but that’s not the point, is it? The point is- make the goal noble, make the process stringent, and change your life to support this. The rest is up to destiny, and after the clusterfuck of 2016 we have learned that life turns on a dime and the best we can do is just make progress however we can, with harm to none and the hope that we will be closer to our true selves by the end of 2017.

Peace to you and may 2017 bring you to your best self.

 

Kate

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