The talent of the artist is that they see life through a viewfinder of objectivity. The artist is able to look at a tree and see that the leaves that are reflecting the spring sun look white not green. They are able to move past the fact that they know the tree to be green, and instead see it for what it is without letting filters of what they think they know to be fact, obstruct their perception. Are they right?… Wrong?… When a leaf reflects the sun is it still green underneath or does it in fact transform to a shimmering white? Perhaps we just accept it to be green underneath because that is a common attribute of a ‘tree’ we know to be true? None of this is really important. What is of significance is that, the beauty of the artist is; when they take to canvas they paint some leaves white and some green. On reflection we (as an audience) see and understand this. We see the artist’s painting and whole-heartedly agree that it looks like a tree in the sun.
However, if I were to paint the tree, I would use only green and brown. Like a young child in preschool, my notions of what I ‘know’ to be, have not changed despite the fact that often my environment throws up such diversity that it’s almost absurd to not recognise that trees have many attributes dependent on the way the light hits them. Oh to be given a new fresh set of eyes able to perceive without judgment… What bliss. How beautiful to see the world anew without labelling, without categorisation, without even naming… Just experiencing… How wonderful that would be.
So how do we go back to seeing the world anew again? Is it even possible? If only I could be like Monet. To paint life with incredibly broad, textured colours that make no sense until one steps back to see the whole picture… When you’re up-close you get intoxicated by blues, greens and dangerous reds, but it’s only when you step back that you see the full picture… Does that mean that Monet would paint with an enormously long brush?… No… He simply had the ability to see the world and create without judgement but with his own personal feeling.
Think about it… Do you remember the clarity of childhood? Why is it that childhood memories seem like high definition versions of our poor resolution present day? I remember the smell of the spring jasmine outside my great grandmother’s house, I recall the smell of pepper in the peppercorn tree I build a tree house in over the road… I remember the detail of the tiles in the house that I would ride my plastic bike over.
So why is it that present day has lost all these associations? Because we perceive, then; label, categorise, and associate like or dislike and then move on so quickly that any of this is rarely on a conscious level anymore… No longer do we simply experience. It’s only when we are completely removed from our environment and experience something foreign that we suddenly regain the ability to see the world anew. That’s why travel is so overwhelming. It’s so foreign that we don’t yet have labels and judgements and sometimes, we’re simply overwhelmed by our environment that it thrusts us back to our childhood sensations of experiencing the world and therefore creates high definition memories and vivid experiences. This is why travel is addictive and so important. It teaches us to be objective again and see things without pre-defined and conditioned judgement.
Unfortunately once we return home we go back to our naïve view of the world through our lens of collective experiences, suddenly everything feels flat, dull and lacks vibrancy… So how do we reignite our childhood perception and curiosity? It’s difficult. I think that mindfulness and meditation are on the right track. I did a meditation retreat recently where I wrote that I felt my vision became high definition again for the first time since I was a child and I think it’s because I was able to quiet my mind. Quieting the mind is crucially important. Don’t let your mind rob you of experiencing this amazing world like a child… Be present, stop the monkey mind-chatter, and just watch, see and feel… Easier said than done, I know!