It seems to me that, sometimes, the existence of mysteries is proven by the fact that I can’t see them.
I have a six-year-old daughter called Mia who, like many children, loves art. I love her art too. That is, I love it when it’s art, but sometimes it’s just drawing. Drawing has a magical ingredient missing, and when I watch Mia it becomes clearer to me what it might be.
Mia’s art contains magic whenever she quietly sits there and produces something, without an audience or the opportunity or intention to show anyone. Her art is contained in those fabulous pieces of paper I find left carelessly on the table, or even better, hidden from my sight under a pile of stuff. Made in the moment, and then moved on, but the paper is left crackling with something special.
If ever I ask to see her art, or if I lumber into her solitude, she inevitably shows me what she’s doing, and something has to be said or she’ll naturally take offence. She takes it that I am impressed, goes off, and draws another picture in order to impress some more. And that picture is always a drawing, never art.
I’m beginning to think that magic in all its forms can only be discovered by someone else, secretly; never performed or spoon-fed. It seems that the moment something is done in order to have an impact or a result, the heart and soul is instantly ripped from it.
With a goal-filled history, I do find this condundrum quite difficult to deal with, as I struggle to discover art. But for me the image of Mia and her drawings brings me some clarity.
Maybe stories with mythical symbols – princesses and giants and God – try and describe what is present in Mia when she’s making art, and absent when she’s performing a picture. Magic that a person might have faith in, but will lose if ever they try and wield it to impress, make the news or change the world.
The belief that sitting doing apparently nothing is passive and lazy is one that has been bothering me. I think I have always had a very narrow understanding of what “active” means. The concept of how sitting quietly might be the most active and productive expression possible is a strange one to grasp. Especially when using my head, which loves to be busily scribbling, and snorts at the soul’s peaceful artwork.
But sometimes, when I notice how magnificent it is to just be sat there listening to the leaves rustle, and in that moment I feel the magic evaporate because I have noticed it, I begin to understand. Sometimes even when there’s just myself as an audience, the art can scurry away. But I can increasingly smell its vapour trail, and it helps me appreciate the less obvious possibilities…
Suddenly, being quiet and letting the universe and everything in it be nothing other that what it actually is, does feel like one of the most powerful and productive acts imaginable. Maybe many of the problems in the world arise from frantic endeavours to try and fix them, fighting the current, inevitably in a public way, driving away the magic.
I do not intend to sit silently in the woods all my life; this quiet yet volcanic state seems not so much like a happy place to settle, but instead an important place to properly know, and an excellent place from where to begin anything – to ensure outward action is about art rather than audiences.