Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Must Life Be Messy?


Chaos Rules


In my early 20's, I worked for a world famous guitar shop in Santa Monica, California, assisting with concert production part-time and trying to carve some sort of order into the owner, Bob Riskin's office the rest of the time.

Here's what I was faced with: piles of paper on every surface, two file cabinets so stuffed with yet more paper that the drawers had trouble closing, the first personal computer that I'd ever laid eyes on (home made by Bob) perched precariously on a wall shelf, packs of Merit Light cigarettes, ashtrays filled with ashes and butts of Merit Lights, a coffee mug that was never washed with a tuning fork for stirring, a motorcycle helmet, xerox machine, Bob in his chair next to the louvered windows opening to the exhaust from Pico Boulevard and me trying to make space to try to make more space. (Did I say it was a tiny office?)

When I would throw up my hands and say "Bob! How can you work like this!?" He'd reply matter-of-factly, "I know where everything is and can put my hands on anything I need." and then proceed to put his hands on anything I asked for out of one stack stuck behind another stack shoved up against the wall at the back of his desk. Then he'd say, "Chaos is the natural order of the universe. Why fight it?" To which I'd reply something to the effect of "Um... it's my job?"
"In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order."
—Carl Jung
It may not look chaotic but, in fact, a blank piece of paper has no inherent order.

That's one reason why many people find a blank piece of paper intimidating. Especially if they have to write or draw on it.

Personally, I find it soothing to make a mark on a new sheet. I love the way that my fountain pen flows in my lined journal every morning. I love writing the date at the upper left corner of each new page before emptying detritus from my bleary mind.

It feels good to make strokes and scribble to make some sort of sense on the emptiness of the fiber ground. Whether I am satisfied or unsatisfied with the end result of my marks, I make some sort of order.

I think that the secret order Jung referred to may be what Michelangelo meant when he said “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Beginners at drawing and watercolor are usually afraid to make any mark at all and then are embarrassed by the results. That fear and embarrassment block any experience of curiosity and joy in the process. What makes my teaching different is that I personally coach each student over the hurdles of fear and embarrassment so they can experience the joy as soon as possible.

Life may be messy but we can create order with a pen on a blank page. No doubt about that.
"Art is the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos."
—Saul Bellow
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