Watercolor and pencil paper test on 4 x 6 in
Watercolor is an unforgiving medium
After people tell me that they can't draw a straight line and they realize that I also teach watercolor, that I'm a watercolor artist, there are a small variety of negative reactions. One of those is "Oh, watercolor is such an unforgiving medium!"
I was going to write something this week based on a Marcus Aurelius quote but when I went to retrieve my book to look it up, I ran into an unexpected and unpleasant encounter. That stuck with me.
When I started going through the Meditations, other quotes jumped out at me and I mulled over the encounter and the theme for this week's Stroke & Flow.
The theme of forgiveness seemed in order but that's such a rich topic. One could (not me) write a book about it. I'm sure there are many books already on forgiveness. Yep, just checked Amazon: 9,603 titles.
Just for the record, (and this is for another chapter in the forgiveness book) not taking things (anything) personally, no matter how personal it may seem, is the way to head off the chain reactions that leave us (sometimes literally) dying for forgiveness.
"Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears."There are so many emotional stages to process after getting hooked by some conflict that lead us to the need for forgiveness: insult, hurt, anger, resentment, tension, obsession and so forth.
Finally, I realized that the real key to forgiveness is letting go. Easier said than done. Letting go is not really forgetting (forgive and forget), it's letting go, releasing. In forgiving, in letting go of everything we attach to a perceived harm, we actually release ourselves from the bondage of those nasty, negative thoughts and emotions.
After I finished a big watercolor this afternoon, I thought about how a practiced watercolorist must let go in order to play with the medium. Not a new thought, but in light of this forgiveness theme, arising in a new context.
While learning watercolor (and we're always learning) we go through stages of struggle in lessons and, eventually, in practice. Anyone who has painted with watercolor, at any stage of the game, will tell you that the more you struggle, the worse the outcome. Sure, you have to learn the basics and gain an understanding of the behavior of the medium, develop your own coordination and skill, then you have to practice regularly and over an extended period of time. But at some point, by letting go enough, you begin to understand the medium of watercolor and become friendly with it. Watercolor is not so much unforgiving as misunderstood.
Like watercolor, forgiveness requires us to let go. After all, so much conflict is based on misunderstanding.
"Is one doing me wrong? Let himself look to that; his humours and his actions are his own. As for me, I am only receiving what the World-Nature wills me to receive, and acting as my own nature wills me to at."
― Marcus Aurelius
"Because a thing is difficult for you, do not therefore suppose it to be beyond mortal power. On the contrary, if anything is possible and proper for man to do, assume that it must fall within your own capacity."If you have a difficult time letting go...
Just think about how brief life is. Do you want to spend your hours in anger and resentment? Probably not.
Over the holidays, you'll have plenty of triggers, from the person in the car in front of you, to a family member at the table beside you, to yourself.
Can you see yourself in the other person? Have you ever been the person in the car in front of someone else, next to someone like yourself at the table?
Let it go, especially if you're being hard on yourself. Remember that all the anger and resentment and whatever negativity you feel towards anyone else is not doing them any harm. It's only harming you.
Take a deep breath. As you release your breath, let it go, let it go, let it go. Like most things, letting go is a practice.
I'm going to be practicing this. You're welcome to join me.
On the other hand, don't be a door mat.
Look to yourself for your own truth, be clear on your boundaries, and be kind.
"When an opponent in the gymnasium gashes us with his nails or bruises our head in a collision, we do not protest or take offence, and we do not suspect him ever afterwards of malicious intent. However, we do regard him with a wary eye; not in enmity or suspicion, yet good-temperedly keeping our distance. So let it be, too, at other times in life; let us agree to overlook a great many things in those who are, as it were, our fellow contestants. A simple avoidance, as I have said, is always open to us, without either suspicion or ill-will."
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