Friday, July 20, 2012

Being Human (Part 2)...

My last post left off on the acceptance of limitation.  I received a wonderfully positive email, encouraging me to keep up the hard work and that I could achieve anything I put my mind to.

I think that the last post might have sounded like I was complaining about being tired and that the phrase "I'm only human" has somewhat less than glowing connotations.  It feels like a dirty phrase, like giving up or accepting defeat.  And I can see those words coming out of the mouth of a swarthy imaginary character, intent on pleasure-seeking and writing off blame or fault.

But to me, the idea of "being human" is a profound and humbling concept.  It has been my experience that people like the epic hero, the one that triumphs over all odds and adopts almost super-human powers.  As a culture, there's a strong emphasis on the "more than human".  Truth be told, I like it too when I've accomplished an amazing amount of work and have made things that are beautiful and it leaves people thinking, "How does he do it?"  When I get patted on the back for my efforts, it reinforces this desire to keep pushing.  I don't think it's just me though.  When I look around pop culture, there's a love of superheroes and comic book characters who are more than human.  I don't usually write about religion on here, but the fact that a majority of Americans claim to be, in some form or fashion, Christian further confirms this idea.  The word "Christian" means, "Christ-like".  Someone who can perform miracles and is the living embodiment of god... well... if that's not heroic and more than human, I don't know what is.

The point of that last paragraph was not to criticize, but to explain why it's understandable that the idea of "being just human" might sound like a "cop-out".  Society and cultural conditioning says to strive for more, to be better, and achieve greatness.

The accepting of limitations though isn't always a cop-out or giving up.  For me, it's about understanding oneself better and determining what can be done and knowing what can't.  Instead of feeling guilt or frustration for not being able to perform miracles, knowing what one can do and then doing it is far more positive and proactive.  Once one knows what the limitations are, they can recontextualize their needs, wants, desires, and what they are able to accomplish.

In painting, sometimes it helps to put a view-finder up (that blocks out peripheral visual information) so that you can see an image or composition more clearly.  Some artists limit their subject matter or palettes, to find beauty in the repetition or in the subtle variations.  People frame paintings to draw special attention to the works of art, of distinguishing this as something to be viewed.  The word "frame" comes from the meaning of to "make ready for use".  The statement, "being human" is a frame.    If I can understand what my body needs, what my mind needs, what my heart needs, what spirit needs and know what will harm the Essentials... then I can better utilize what is in front of me.  Within the frame, I can create a masterpiece and maybe if I embrace my humanity, I can create something miraculous.


Sharon Driscoll said...

On the topic of being human - Maybe for artists of all kinds the heart, the spirit, and the mind are swimming in creativity (as always - no matter what the cronological age) but the body grows tired and changes. It simply can no longer comply with our "grand plans". Lately as I tried to steam ahead as if I were 19 again (don't I wish) my body decided to teach me a lesson on mass planning rather than quality planning. I too am refocusing and holding up that frame. And as soon as they replace my knee I will narrow my scope and rejoice that the heavens have allowed me the ability to be multi-talented and optimistic.

And - I didn't think you were whining at all. I feel like I have so much I want to get out and so little time to do that - it haunts me sometimes!

Hopefully the kick in the butt to reduce and refocus for a better quality of work and life doesn't always have to come in the aches and pains form.

Does that make us slow learners?

Andrew Thornton said...

I don't think it makes us slow learners... just in need of the occasional reminder.

Gail Crosman Moore said...

i think the serenity prayer says it all..'grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference'.

Shai Williams said...

I didn't feel that you were whining at all. There are times when us humans are blessed by being able to surpass our limitations but to expect that as the norm is to just set ourselves up to fail. I had to accept my limitations when I was blessed by Fibro.