Words Do Not Mean

“Words are only painted fire; a book is the fire itself.” – Mark Twain

Previously, I discussed how talking and noise are distractions that prevent one from connecting to one’s art on a spiritual level. There is another problem in regards to words and their abilities and/or inabilities to communicate. This second type of distinction can also be found in visual art.

Words are symbols. They are groups of letters that can only approximate. For instance, consider the letters d-o-o-r [That spells the word “door.”] What does that word tell us?–not much! What visual image springs to mind when you think of the word “door?” What emotional feelings do you have about the word “door?” Granted, the person who was hit by a swinging door that broke his nose and consequently caused that same person to back into the person behind him who, then fell down a flight of steps, which consequently caused the first door-hit person to be sued, may have slightly stronger feelings and visual images conjured by the word “door” than most of us. Yet, for most of us, that word is fairly bland.

The word “church” might carry a bit more meaning for most of us; but it is still a fairly non-specific word. The problem with words are that they are too general and non-specific–taken one at a time–to mean much. They also have a tendency to become symbols. For instance, the peace sign is a visual symbol for peace and a heart might be a visual symbol for love.

Chit Chat — these words and visual symbols. If you want to get to the SOUL of things, you have to dig a little deeper. Following are a string of words that might trigger a few more responses:

“I myself find glimpses of the soul when I walk outside and a tiny purple crocus, after working very hard for several weeks to just pierce the soil, has now drummed up enough steam to lift its head and beam into the sky. I find a glimpse of the soul when I stand in the center of a vast, aged forest of hickories that have have been turned seasonally golden by the coming of autumn. As I look toward the canopy of the trees and see sunlight streaming though holes in the webbed branches and filtering toward the earth, I realize that no Gothic Cathedral, no Chartres, with it ostentatious stained glass windows and looming arches could lift my spirit any higher toward heaven than these gilded hickories are presently doing. I become convinced that no altar in any church could be any more reverent than this. No spot could be more glorious than that where the sunlight has chosen to rest.” – Jacki Kellum

These words, which I wrote in my journal about 15 years ago, are much more specific than the word “church,” because they are referring to one specific cathedral-like place where I stood at one specific point in time. Yet, I have still given you mere words. The essence of my experience that day is buried much deeper within me; and my words are my effort to communicate that essence.

“Language and speech, among the higher achievements of evolution, not only express, but also limit, consciousness. Because our intuitive images come from the deepest source of Being, language often cannot translate them into any known concept. When we become too earthbound by conditioned consciousness and by the use of language for self-expression and communication with others, we limit what we can experience and perceive to the bounds set by the spoken word. So, when we maintain total silence for a period of time, we temporarily abandon language and free ourselves to explore the territory of our inner and outer worlds, unfettered by linguistic maps. . . .We then have the opportunity to perceive inner images and riches, because we are not trying to force them to fit the Procrustean bed of our vocabulary.” – Ashok Bedi, MD, Path to the Soul

You might say, Well, that is interesting; but what has that to do with learning how to draw?

The answer is–not much. I’ll say it over and again. Learning to draw is not art. It is technique that even monkeys have been taught to imitate. Art is much, much more than Learning to draw. Art is a distillation of the spirit.

Here is another shocker for some people. Artists are not only the people who buy art supplies at Michaels and make marks on paper and canvas. Artists are people who engage very deeply when they do any number of things. Some chefs are artists; some homemakers are artists [NOT ME]; many hairdressers are artists; some surgeons and dentists are artists; certainly, many authors and filmmakers are artists–yet, most of the people in the above categories are not. [That includes the people who make marks on paper and canvas–most of them are not artists either.]

Art is a way of living. An artist is a person who can communicate that WAY of living to others.

Day 2 of the Fast Track to Becoming Your Artist Within will focus on ways to move away from empty symbol making and toward being an authentic artist.


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