When I paint a mural, I spend a lot of time close to the wall, looking at a tiny portion of the whole. I analyze the minute details, fix the problems. Stepping back, I can see how this tiny section, that has so much detail when viewed up close, can look like nothing from a distance. It makes me wonder why I spent so much time perfecting the minor details when it's barely noticeable. Then I step in again and see how beautiful those details are, how they add flavor and substance to the whole even if they aren't drawing immediate attention. I realize again how important the pointed efforts can be, even when they aren't so obvious from afar.
Living in society can be like this. I work hard in my own little corner, trying to be the best parent, the efficient worker, thoughtful friend. Then I step back and look at the world at large and feel discouraged. It's so fucked up in so many ways. It's a horrible time politically, our climate issues are weighing heavily on the planet, criminals go unpunished. It feels daunting. And then I have an evening with friends, amazing artists that make me proud to be part of such a vibrant art community, and that makes me feel a little better about it all.
I was sitting on my deck a few moments ago, watching snow flakes fall onto my coat. They were beautiful pristine shapes, like the ones I use to cut out of paper as a child, six pointed, perfect structure, dynamic and complicated crystals, just falling on my lap for me and me alone to admire. When snow falls in Minnesota this time of year, it is often wet and comes down in clumps, gathering mass as it falls through the sky, not resembling the paper shapes of my youth in any fashion, and then lands in heaps, chaotic and impossibly beautiful. That is until they are tainted with sand, grit and dog piss. I forget about the fact that there are literally billions of snow flakes in that gigantic snow heap next to the road. It is a collection of tiny bits of beauty converging to make something grand. It's appearance tainted by our needs for public safety and the pleasure of a dog relieving itself, and yet made up of something spectacular.
People are the same way. It's sometimes difficult to see the individual beauty of human kind when we are clumped together in masses, the clarity of the individuals often altered by a few people who taint the vision of the whole and distract me from what is true, like piss on a snowbank. So when I get discouraged, I will try and remember that there are billions of people doing beautiful things. When I step back and look at society as a whole, the loud ones are the ones that get my attention. The ones that are coloring the overall effect with self important distractions are not really worth my time. I will step in closer and focus on the individuals around me doing amazing things, that come together and create a vision of a strong and caring community of people that can outshine a billion snowflakes. That is the beauty available to me, if I pay attention.