In his biography of George Herriman, author Michael Tisserand includes a Navajo Beauty Prayer that Herriman learned in Arizona and found ways to incorporate into his artwork. The poem goes:
“In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk…”
I really like this poem and find it to be a powerful way to find presence, gratitude, and a sense of calmness. The poem reminds me of stoic ideas that I first learned about reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Meditations is a collection of notes that Aurelius wrote to himself, to remind himself to be thoughtful and considerate in all that he did. One of the ideas he returns to throughout the book is the power of being present, of not worrying about a future that hasn’t arrived and not being caught up in regret or sorrow over the past. Focusing on nature, Aurelius notes, can be a powerful way to stay grounded in the present moment and to recognize that much of what troubles us is in our minds, and not in the present world around us.
The Navajo poem focuses our attention in a meditative way on the present, especially if we can be outside in nature to recite the lines of the poem. We can appreciate the beauty of trees, the sky (even if cloudy), and the world around us. What we focus on will become our reality, and looking for beauty no matter where we are will help us see the world through a more positive lens. Our world is defined by how we use our mind and the poem reminds us of the power of our mind as it focuses it on positivity and beauty.
The last section of William Vollmann’s letter in James Harmon’s book, Take My Advice, which I highlighted is a section on creation. The short piece of advice reads, “Anyone can be an artist of sorts. At the very least, trying to create something beautiful will help you see beauty in other created things, and that will make you happy.” I like this quote because it encourages everyone to do something creative, not because making something beautiful will make you rich, but because it will help you have a deeper appreciation of the world.
I believe that Vollmann’s quote applies to any creative process. This blog has helped me appreciate good writing, trying to create my own podcast (The Blue Pulse Podcast
) has helped me appreciate other people’s creative podcasts, and being creative in more traditional artistic ways has helped me find a new appreciation for art.
Vollmann’s quote is a reflection of increased awareness in the world. Prior to setting off on a creative journey it is easy to take well produced and high quality art for granted. The creative process does not look so difficult from the outside and it is easy to simply accept the world as it is without peering past the surface to see the hard work and effort required to create the world we see. Diving into art and creativity gives us an up close and personal view of the effort required to transform ones craft from rudimentary to outstanding. As one gets started they see how much work is truly required to establish something meaningful, and as each small step or obstacle towards a goal is revealed, the respect for those who create grows.
I believe that this respect for hard work grows as we grow and strive for new goals. The creative journey is a wonderful example, but as I have left college and entered the working world I have begun to appreciate just how hard others work. I am truly fascinated with individual stories of reaching goals, and what I have come to learn is that the most successful people often work very hard with seemingly little support and recognition for about ten years before they reach the levels they would hope for. This is true of career journeys as well as creative journeys, and while I don’t always agree with the paths and goals that people set out for themselves, I can respect the dedication and effort required to reach those goals.
In the end, Vollmann’s observation is powerful in the sense that what you begin to appreciate as you dive into the design world, the world of art, and the hidden world of individual creativity, is the drive and effort of others to produce meaning in the world. Great art serves more than the creator, but everyone else in society. By creating something that makes others pause to think, you put additional value in the world.