In painting we use various pigments, types of paint and methods of applying colour and texture to surfaces be they canvases or brick walls. When I first started painting again in my forties, I went back to school and studied with Dave More. He’s since become a life long mentor and friend. I recall him telling me that it doesn’t matter how we get the paint onto the canvas: ‘Use a stick if you have to.’ The point was to begin, to make one stroke after another in a thoughtful way. Carl Grimm, one of the world’s top conservators of the world’s masterpieces of fine art, told me that every stroke on a canvas should be applied with meaning, that it’s there to do something. These two ideas, to begin and to be thoughtful, apply to all forms of creative expression. Combined with experimentation and practice these ideas provide us a useful metaphor for creating and shifting our identities in the world. Nuance and skill take time to learn and develop. Practice is essential as we learn any form of creative expression, identity expression is no different.
In every creative practice there are tools that we use to create masterpieces. In music we have a framework of scales and tones which develop rigorously, and rather beautifully, from the mathematics of soundwaves, through systems of notation and a vast range of musical instruments which produce an almost unlimited range of sounds. At one extreme is the sound of the symphony orchestra, sometimes with soloist, producing an extraordinarily complex soundworld. There are decades of practice and training behind each performance. In contrast, we’ve all heard people sit down at a piano with no training and hammer the keys in a way that makes us want to plug our ears and hope for silence to return. So it can be, when we are around people that haven’t tried to master relational skills. How can we develop our skills towards the relational equivalent of symphony orchestra, chorus, and solo singers and players?
If we imagine our identities as composites, developed from the many relationships that we are in, then we can think of them like we do painting or music, each composition rich with textures, and layers, and colour that give us each our own unique aesthetic and make us individuals like no other. To create our own personal masterpieces of identity we need to consider the materials and tools at our disposal. And then we need to practice and develop skills that enable us to shift our identities in ways that are unique to us and express what we might call our divine selves, an expression of ourselves that rises close to our ideal imaginings.
The raw materials that make up our own personal masterpieces – our individual identities – are indeed the various and shifting relationships in our lives. The skills and abilities we use as we interact to create meaning in these relationships could be conceptualised as our relational aesthetic.
I suggest that we engage in four distinct types of relations. These influence who we are in the world and can limit or enhance our ability to realize our divine selves, particularly if we are unaware of their influence.
We might think of these relations as: 1) people – who we know, 2) place/things – where we go, 3) activities – what we do, and 4) ideas/concepts/words – the tools we use to make meaning.
If we take the above diagrams and write in our strongest relations for each of these four types we might begin to see the underpainting, or hear the melody, of our relational aesthetic. Who we are might be just a little clearer and begin to raise questions about the importance of each relationship to our well-being and challenges.
You can read the introduction at: An identical paradigm shift. This is the second post of this series. As always I invite you to connect with me below by engaging in discussion, and by signing up for future posts at the bottom of this page.