On Seeing

I am beginning to work on a class that people have been urging me to create for years: How to see.

I do a lot of things. I am a poet, a fiction writer, a photographer and an artist. I am also a life coach, business consultant, teacher, technology engineer and a preacher. I love all of these things. They feed my spirit in different ways. You might think that doing this wide a variety of things means I need to learn a crazy amount of skills, and there is a big difference in the skill sets each needs, But, I have learned, the biggest difference between them is not the skill set, but how each role sees. Each requires me to see things through a different lens.

Most of us just see things as we see them. We have a set of pre-disposed lenses that we look through. We see things and situations and people a certain way that comes from our childhood, the people we surround ourselves with, our spirituality, our pain and fears. Once we develop a set of lenses, that’s pretty much how we see everything.

I know that was the case for me. I pretty much saw everything I did through one set of lenses. In my case, that first set of lenses meant I turned everything I saw or did into poetry. Sound. Flow. Language. Feeling.

When I took up photography, I began to learn about what to look for in order to create an interesting photograph. Space. Color. Pattern. Then I began to learn how to do different kinds of photography. And in the end, though I had to learn new skills, it was really about learning how to look at things, how to see what was there, and frame it to make the most of it.

Then there was art: I learned to see background, mid-ground, and foreground elements. I learned about line and color and motion. When I stopped focusing on technique and started to focusing more on seeing things in a certain way, my art began to take off and develop a voice of its own.

It’s been the same with everything I do. My engineering. My helping people and businesses grow. My pastoral work. Each is more about learning to see, learning to find the underlying principles to look for in order to create and build something.

Now this is no secret to most of us. We’re peripherally aware that how we see things influences everything. But we still tend to do it on autopilot.

What, I asked myself, would happen if I was more conscious of looking at things, at applying different lenses to things that perhaps, that way of seeing was not designed for. So I have learned to apply my artistic side to my engineering. Apply how I see as a pastor to my painting. Apply my photographic vision to my preaching.

I will tell you – great, new stuff happens. Everything becomes richer, more full of possibilities, more layered and more nuanced.

The key is learning how to see. How each part of us sees different things. Once we are conscious of the different ways to see things, we come to a place where we can stop and say “What does this look like as an artist? As a businessman? As a spiritual person? A single thing, a single experience, suddenly becomes many things.

I am telling you, it’s pretty exciting stuff. I finally got to the place where I can very consciously switch lenses a few years ago, and it has made all my work, my art and my life richer. And now I am trying to put this into a class. It will be fun, I think. I may find that everyone already does this. I may find that people want learn how to do it. I have no idea. But if what folks tell me is true, there are at least a few of us who want to get better at this.

So I have been breaking down what I look for in each of the roles of my life, and in the different kinds of art I do. It’s been a fascinating self-study, and a learning process as I also talk to others who do the same things I do. I am learning so much. And that’s the real reason I love teaching, I learn more than the people I teach. Yeah, I’m greedy that way.

So go look at something. Then look at it differently. Get on your knees and look at it like a child. Squinch up your eyes and look at it like an impressionistic artist. Look at a something in your life and think of it as a story. Have fun with it.

Because it IS fun. Creativity mostly is.

Be well. Travel wisely.

Tom

 

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