My wife and I dropped our two daughters at acting class yesterday and had two hours in downtown Portland to play.
We went to the Portland Art Museum.
We had a ball.
My favorite piece: Fung Ming Chip (Chinese), Heart Sutra, 1999. Ink on Paper. (It’s the one on the left. The one one the right is the same characters written in black ink with a white background.)
It looks spooky at first glance. The all black with little white holes gives an intense feel perfect for Halloween. But then I took a moment to read about the process he used and looked closer.
He first wrote each of the characters with water. Only water, which basically has no chance of making any permanent mark. It was as if he was writing the characters on paper for the simple joy of writing. It was simple, zen, let’s-be-in-the-moment, practice.
Then he made it art.
He covered the paper in black ink. He took the intangible water drawings and made them permanent. That’s the real genius of the piece. It’s not simply the zen-like be-in-the-moment with no results. The process is actually tangible.
The problem with high schools and college is that the classes put too much pressure on the final product. Constant testing applies too much pressure on getting the best grade now. The process is merely a mean for an end.
Such an approach leads to conditionally motivated, stressed out or completely deflated teenagers. It’s a rough road to keep treading without a constant drip of good grades to keep your self-esteem above water.
Everyone faces the same problem. When the stakes are so high, it’s the results-oriented, get-it-done approach that wins out.
It’s not that such bottom-line approach is bad or not useful. It’s important to take care of the bottom-line.
But it’s equally important to take care of the process and make the process itself your art.
How do you enter your office and do your first fifteen minutes of work?
What’s the beauty of the calendar, to-do list, email, conversations?
When people find themselves stuck, whether as a student, a parent, an educator, a life coach or a professional, it’s time to take a step back and focus on the process.
When you focus on the process, the success of the final product follows.