Saturday, July 12, 2014

On Distractableness and Art and Life

**Real quick before we get started, let me say that even if you don't read this whole post (maybe you're pressed for time, or tired, or lazy), at least read the quote below. It's wonderful. And it's all big and easy to find. Cool.**

I am highly distractable. (Chrome is trying to tell me that "distractable" isn't a word, and it suggests that instead I use "distracted." I don't like that. To say that I'm highly distracted would make it seem that I'm distracted all the time and that one of the central defining characteristics of my life is distractedness. I don't think that's true. In contrast, to say that I'm distractable would seem to me to say that I'm susceptible to distractions, without such distractedness necessarily being a primary marker of how I live my life. That may be a subtle distinction, but an important one. At least to me. And since I'm the one writing, what I say goes.) As proof of my distractability, look at that parenthetical remark that I just wrote. I had no intention of writing about those two words until I was distracted by the red squiggly line under "distractable" and felt it necessary to divert away from my original purpose and explain why I'm using a word that, apparently, isn't really a word. Anyway, back to that original purpose, I'm easily distractable.

Because I'm easily distractable, it can be hard for me to be productive in the traditional, linear sense of productivity. For example, I sat down today to write something for school, and here I am writing on my blog. To try and mitigate my being easily distracted, one thing that I'll often do to do is to actively distract myself, rather than passively allow myself to be distracted. If I can make efforts to be in some semblance of control over my own distractions, then I find that I can refocus back on the task at hand more quickly and more completely. This doesn't solve the problem and I'm definitely still subject to passive distraction (especially if there is any degree of decent people watching available), but it helps some. To this end, one of my favorite places to try and write is in libraries where there are literally thousands of tomes with which I can actively distract myself when the need arises. In order to make these distractions rather short and not deeply engaging, I look for books on subjects I have only a passing interests in. Today's subject of distraction: art and art criticism.

I was shoelessly wandering the aisles of art books when a book caught my eye: Art As Existence. I'm endlessly fascinated by questions of existence and identity, and this very question concerning the relationship between art and life was one that I often pondered during my time as a security guard at the BYU Museum of Art. However, as I was about to pick it up and peruse it briefly, another book with a similar kind of title caught my eye and I went for it instead. (I'll have to go back for Art As Existence another time.) The book that I ended up distracting myself with was On Art and Life by John Ruskin. As I thumbed through it, I randomly stopped on page 27 and began to read. And I loved what I read. Really, the whole point of writing this post was to put this quote somewhere where I knew I could find it again. It's that wonderful. Alright, now that I've sufficiently built up this quote, I reckon I ought to let you all read it.

Here 'tis:

Imperfection is in some sort essential to all that we know of life. It is the sign of life in a mortal body, that is to say, of a state of progress and change. Nothing that lives is, or can be, rigidly perfect; part of it is decaying, part nascent...And in all things that  live there are certain irregularities and deficiencies which are not only signs of life, but sources of beauty. No human face is exactly the same in its lines on each side, no leaf perfect in its lobes, no branch in its symmetry. All admit irregularity as they imply change; and to banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality. All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgment, Mercy.

I love that. I can't really add anything to it without detracting from its awesomeity. It is easily one of my favorite distraction-aided finds ever. And now that I've sufficiently distracted myself from my work, I'm gonna get back to it. But first I'm gonna leave you with this picture that I took a couple weeks back of one of my all-time favorite flowers of all time. (yeah, it's so favorite that I used "all time" twice to describe it)