Photo by Kai Oberhäuser
I love a good book. I’m usually drawn to non-fiction these days, and few weeks ago I picked up this book just in the nick of time. The librarian had to go looking for it and told me as she scanned the barcode that they were just about to get rid of it! Here’s to hoping that means that since it’s overdue, I can go in and tell them I want to keep it.
The book is entitled “The War of Art” and is written by Steven Pressfield. I found the book really interesting, but one particular idea seems worth sharing here (perhaps your library still has a copy if you want to read more!). At the end of the book he tells the reader that there are two ways to orient ourselves as artists: one is hierarchically, which refers to finding support and encouragement through the pecking order, or how we rank in comparison with others. The other is teritorially, where the creative individual retrieves support and renewal through the creative territory or medium that they invest in. Here is a little more detail about this idea:
The act of creation is by definition territorial. As the mother-to-be bears her child within her, so the artist or innovator contains her new life. No one can help her give it birth. But neither does she need any help…When the artist works territorially, she reveres heaven. She aligns herself with the mysterious forces that power the universe and that seek, through her, to bring forth new life. By doing her work for its own sake, she sets herself at the service of these forces.
How can we tell if our orientation (as an artist) is territorial or hierarchical? One way is to ask ourselves, If I were feeling really anxious, what would I do? If we could pick up the phone and call six friends, one after the other, with the aim of hearing their voices and reassuring ourselves that they still love us, we’re operating hierarchically. We’re seeking the good opinion of others.
What would Arnold Schwarzenegger do on a freaky day? He wouldn’t phone his buddies; he’d head for the gym. He wouldn’t care if the place was empty, if we didn’t say a word to a soul. He knows that working out, all by itself, is enough to bring him back to his center. His orientation is territorial.
Here’s another test. Of any activity you do, ask yourself: If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it? If you’re alone on the planet, a hierarchical orientation makes no sense. There’s no one to impress. So, if you’d still pursue that activity, congratulations. You’re doing it territorially.
Isn’t that interesting? I like the way he describes this concept. Earlier in the book he mentions that as humans our default setting seems to be set on hierarchy; who taught you that so-and-so was “cool” in junior high, or that you couldn’t talk to that kid because he was with the “in-crowd”? It’s something we naturally develop. For me, it was so refreshing to take a look at what the territorial orientation would feel like. How liberating would it be if the act of creating itself was all we needed to feel secure in our creations? It’s our choice, as we have the power to frame our perceptions in the way we choose.
He ends with this paragraph to finish up the book:
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.
So there you go. Something to think about for the weekend. Happy Friday!
If you’ve been on the music section of my website, you’ve seen these two words, passion and purpose, in a quote by a long-time family friend, Joey Reyes Owen: “Isn’t it a joy when your passion and your purpose collide?” This week I found another quote that ties together these two words:
When the Lord wishes to direct his people,” hymn composer and choir director Evan Stephens reflected, “his favorite mode of procedure seems to be not so much to thunder his commands from the mountains of clouds.” Far more often, in Stephens’s experience, “some quiet, unknown man or woman is unconsciously attuned into a fit instrument for the work.” First, “an intense desire is in some simple, natural way created in the person to accomplish something.” When a person’s individual passions and efforts match the Lord’s purposes, “more and more grows the desire and the joy in the labors of pursuit; more and more dawns upon their vision the possibilities” until “through the fruits of the labors of these inspired persons a people are found to have attained, to a more or less perfect degree, that particular goal and purpose desired by the Lord.”
(Evan Stephens, “M.I.A. in Music,” Improvement Era, vol. 28, no. 8 (June 1925), 730)
When individual passions match the Lord’s purposes- that’s where the magic happens!
Henry: How do you do it?
Henry: Live each day with this kind of passion. Don’t you find it exhausting?
~From the movie Ever After
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
~Quote by Howard Thurman, quoted in the book “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown
This has been on my quote wall for at least a year. I think this month I just started living it. And you know what? It’s way more fun to live this way!