Monday, October 21, 2013
The mission of artists and writers
Georgia O'Keeffe was famous for her vivid, close-up paintings of flowers. She once revealed part of the inspiration behind her calling. Georgia noticed that people rarely stop to notice how stunning flowers really are, so she made it part of her mission to help folk to slow down and come face to face with images which are hard to ignore.
This reminded me of stories my mother used to tell me about when she was a little girl. She would marvel at the structure of flowers and spend hours lost in the depth of their petals. This was long before the digital age when the tyranny of the urgent became an issue, not to mention all sorts of screen-based entertainment at our finger tips. I decided to take up the challenge and give flower pondering a try. So I looked at the different colours and hues, the shapes of the petals, whether they are whirls, scallops or heart shaped, the way the leaves unfurl, the variety of scents they put out. They really are masterpieces, making me sorry to think of the times fields of flowers are trampled underfoot without a thought.
But I have to admit, one thing I noticed when I looked at flowers was a restlessness that would well up, rushing me to get on with something else that might be more productive. There were always parts of the house that needed cleaning, emails and social media to check on the computer, family members to be dropped off or picked up from different places, meals to cook. I was saddened by my reaction, partly because I'm a person who has chosen a slower lifestyle than many, and it seems I wasn't immune to the twenty-first century urge to rush.
I decided that needed fixing up because it wouldn't have been this way, even as recently as the mid twentieth century. Even though previous generations were very hard workers, they weren't pressured to remain restless during their down time by all the information overload. When they relaxed, they did it properly. Our modern technology hadn't been invented to get their brains darting off in many directions at once. Scattered thinking and multi-tasking wasn't as widespread, and now it's such an issue now that many of us don't even realise why our nerves are on edge.
Occasionally I notice the same effect that flower studying caused, when I sit down to relax with a book. Sometimes, especially if there has been a lot on my mind, a restlessness to skim over blocks of paragraphs wells up, especially if there seems to be a lot of description and I just want to get on with the story. My fingers get all skitterish to either turn a page or press a button, depending on the medium of book I'm reading. Then I realise, once again, that need to slow down in my soul and my spirit.
Like looking at God's creation in the flower petals, I consciously decide to savour the perfect descriptive passages, drawing us straight into wherever a story is set, or into the mind of the heroes. With the help of the authors, my mind is enabled to slow down to a level at which it can appreciate all the beautiful, meaningful places we are being taken. And that can lift my mood, just like staring into the heart of a flower.
How excellent it is to think that with our books, we can be part of this mission to help people slow down and once again appreciate those wonderful small things in life, that someday, we may all realise were really the big things. We aren't painting bold, vivid close-ups of flowers like Georgia O'Keeffe, but we understand and share the heart of her mission. And because of benefit of slowing down to focus all our attention on one thing for a length of time, we're helping to make people healthier.
Paula Vince is an Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction, with elements of romance, mystery and suspense. She believes that nothing has the power to work on people's hearts like a good story.
Posted by Paula Vince