Friday, August 28, 2015

Crystallization - Part 1 of 4

Behind the Johanna
Watercolor 11 x 14, 2014
Have you ever struggled with a decision for a period of time where you were not sure what direction to take but then, in an instant, “knew” what to do? Where confusion and opacity were replaced with a feeling of unity or a clear path to follow? One moment you didn’t know and the next you are certain?

And afterwards did you ever "wonder what just happened?"

While most of my personal decisions of any magnitude are done through careful (some would argue agonizingly obsessive) deliberation, I have also had those “aha” moments where everything snapped into place and, without a doubt, I knew what needed to happen next. Over the next four posts, I’ll share a recent experience characterized by this type of awareness as another example of how the creative process manifests itself.  Hopefully I will be able to provide you some insights on how to prepare for the same type of transformation.

There is a concept in chemistry called “instantaneous crystallization,” which is a rapid state conversion from a liquid to a solid crystalline structure in supersaturated liquids. This takes place when a small particle or “seed” is introduced into a solution that contains a higher concentration of a particular material. An almost instantaneous change takes place in dramatic fashion and reacts much like lightening striking. However, in this case it serves as metaphor with a universal truth: small things can precipitate great change due to incredibly powerful surrounding forces. Think Rosa Parks sitting on the bus refusing to give up her seat in the supersaturated environment of the deeply segregated South in 1955. Rosa is the seed that started a crystallization of the Civil Rights movement and equality rulings across the country for years afterwards.

I can only wish that my actions had the pertinence of a human rights movement. It might strike you as a bit smug or pretentious to assume similarity between such an important historical event and my “state change” but when such a shift occurs internally (and since we are all at the center of our own little universes and experience everything first from the standpoint of YOU*), it can take on similar importance. For some, the change may be so profound that it causes physical effects such as disorientation or taking your breath away. Note: as stated in infomercials - “individual results may vary”.

Supersaturation for me took on the form of many years of delaying gratification of one type for the delivery of another. I had a family to support, kids to help through college, an IT/design career that allowed me to do that and a variety of other things that helped to interfere or refine what it was that I was supposed to be doing with my life. And honestly, those were the things I needed to be doing at the time. No regrets, just backwards observation of the path that had passed beneath my feet while fixing my gaze forward. All the while, I had been learning oil painting skills along with portraiture (see earlier posts for some results) for a number of years, dabbling at it, moving through the process intuitively banging at walls trying to learn skills in a hit or miss fashion on the side. It wasn’t until I was on vacation recently that I had an opportunity to reflect on just how neglected certain aspects of my creative being had become, allowing my internal mix to reach a critical level.

To provide a bit of background, this is a vacation like no other. My daughter described it as “not a vacation but an event,” one from which we all need another vacation to recover. Relatives and friends from around the country converge for one week of get-togethers, parties, organized competitions, and events all set in a gorgeous northern Michigan environment. Introverts beware! It really is a great time for the most part but I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that it all gets to be a bit too much by the end. And since it is everyone's vacation. rather than be a buzz kill, I chose to find other pursuits and stay out of the fray but as the week approached its halfway mark I felt I had reached my tipping point. Waking one morning with an "anger" hangover, I realized this was no longer a vacation but an endurance test. I had to do something . . . .  

          *Thank you David Foster Wallace for this analogy. Kenyon commencement address, 2005.

Up Next: Something Has to Give 

No comments:

Post a Comment