Unlearning

Picasso was quoted as saying, ’it has taken me a lifetime to learn how to paint like a child’. That is a lot of unlearning but hits to the heart of the matter. The sophistication of the art market mechanism tilts the modern day artist’s mindset to believing that he/she needs to be either clever or obscene to gain their 15 minutes of fame. Joseph Campbell exhorted, ’follow your bliss’. Elizabeth Gilbert in her new book Big Magic says following your passion implies too much pressure. She suggests , ’just be curious’, and it will lead you to your path.

If we take stock of our childhood years of learning we see the obsolescence of a great deal of information that we were indoctrinated with. Much of what we learned we now have to unlearn as greater information surfaces in all fields including art. Every profession has gone through upheaval and if we hang on to old ways and beliefs there is no doubt we will be left in the dust as the better part of the world marches on. Things that we only dreamed about as little as twenty years ago have now become our reality. Imagine the invisible things that have yet to be awakened in those of us who have seen the wisdom of dreaming large knowing those too can become reality someday.

So what does that mean for those in the arts?  What forms of expression have yet to be discovered? Are we stuck in a very limited train of thought as to what art can ultimately be? How do we separate what is authentic art and that which is just the appearance of art? Can we actually feel like a kid playing in the sandbox again like Picasso? If the rest of the world is reevaluating and releasing the erroneous thinking of the past and ushering in revolutionary new ideas then maybe that heritage flourishes within the arts.

On a personal level we each have our own internal GPS system. If we allow that system to operate unhindered as we work, we each will surely tap into ideas and directions that we could have never imagined. One thing links to another and to another until we are directed to the unexpected, the new and the innovative.This is following the flow. To me this is the culmination of following your bliss, being curious, following your passion and creating like a child. All of it combined. A child believes nothing is impossible and sees the world with fresh eyes. The magic has yet to be removed by learning. Learning is good if it doesn’t destroy the magic.If we don’t see or feel the magic in ourselves anymore then unlearning might be the remedy.

My favorite philosopher Willie Wonka re-quoted  from the poem, Ode written by the English poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy and one of my favorite lines from the movie [the original movie of course]

We are the music makers,

And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,

And sitting by desolate streams;—

World-losers and world-forsakers,

On whom the pale moon gleams:

Yet we are the movers and shakers

Of the world for ever, it seems.

 

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