Mastery Out of The Thin Place
Just to say that I want to become a master photographer is difficult. It feels almost disingenuous because how does one really know if one has all that it may take?
Steven Pressfield, in his book "The War of Art", along with Robert McKee, who wrote its introduction, speak about the powerful roles 'resistance' and its companion 'fear' play in our efforts to live creative lives. And, while resistance and fear are very much a part of the everyday human condition, the question becomes to what extent they affect creativity, which to me is the primary pathway to mastery.
McKee agrees with Pressfield that it is in the day-by-day, step-by-step actions of preparing, ordering, and being patient, while facing fears and failures, that will lead the talented toward mastery.
Making the bold assumption that I do have ‘what it takes’, what is it that keeps me from demonstrating signs of this eventual mastery?
Here are my questions of self.
Resistance: What prevents me from fully opening an authentic channel to mastery?
Fear: Why do I fear becoming over involved in a work that shows signs of high merit because I question my ability to maintain the creative energy required and thus, potentially fail?
Day-by Day: Why do I often work in intense spurts rather than a steady day-by-day approach?
Step-by-Step: Why is my workflow inconsistent?
Preparation: Why do I tend to often work haphazardly?
Order: Why is my work environment not well ordered?
Patience: Why is it that when a project's workflow seems to be dead-ending I rush to finish rather than find a way toward qualifying?
As I write this blog I am looking at two photographs I recently made. One is what could describe as a competent work but I have no desire or passion to ever make another like it again. The second photograph is one that inspires me in extraordinary ways every time I look at it. In other words, I feel I could make photographs like this day-by-day, step-by-step in preparing, ordering, and enjoying the patience required. When I see this photograph my resistances and fears melt away.
Then there is this concept of 'thin place', where there is an awareness of a place the spiritual and cognitive worlds touch. Or, it may be where authenticity and in-authenticity meet. Perhaps it is within this very thin place we are able to know our authentic self. Is embracing the thin place part of mastery? An Apache proverb states, "Wisdom sits in places."
There is so much in the larger universal context that is ‘thinly’ separated by something like a membrane. This mysterious line of separation involves almost everything from the smallest cell structure to multiple universes touching each other without inter-awareness. And, can it also be what separates the master photographer within from a current way of approaching artful work? And, if it is so thin, why is it so difficult to employ? Is it because this thin membrane is opaque in nature not allowing shapes, shadows, or lines of consequence to be clearly seen, understood, or trusted...thus feared.
Is it fear and resistance that prevent me from living through this thin place where mastery may reside and is it worth the effort to engage? Most assuredly yes! I do have an intuitive sense that when one lives out the authentic self, braving its true vocation, and communicating well with the essence of who we are and relating honestly with the outer world; aliveness in mind, spirit, and body become more and more our way of living and acting. I wonder if this 'thin place' is to be made known in the feelings and understanding that come while comparing photographs that encourage with those that deplete the resolve to become a master. The thin place step-by-step, day-by-day, day-by-day, day-by-day!