Satisfaction vs Purpose
Most of the conversations I have are with myself. No one around here (that I know of) wants to dive into deep discussions about a subject that only one person cares about. Here, maybe everywhere, people talk about surface topics like weather, health problems, this week's outrage, and what somebody made for supper – quite a lot of talk about what and where someone last ate. You'd think we were Hobbits.
But what do we think about when we look out the window?
What would satisfy
Currently, I have a full-time job with a retail men's shop that's in its 82nd year of operation. We offer work/casual clothes, dress clothes, belts, boots and shoes, cologne, alterations, and very good customer service. Some days are slower than others. On those days, I find myself in front of the windows looking up and down Main street, downtown Dickson, thinking about painting. I have other interests, but painting always comes to the front (along with spiritual practices). I enjoy different coffees and learning about their origins. Coffee has a story! I've always thought that I'd enjoy being involved with hospitality somehow – a bed and breakfast, perhaps – where I could create a simple experience but exceed people's expectations and provide rest and beauty.
When I'm lost in thought, I don't think of owning a bed and breakfast or a coffee shop. I think of purpose, people, and then for some unknown reason, painting.
I started typing this on Sunday, April 22, 2018. Coincidentally, I came across a Facebook post by a prominent plein air painter that dealt with purpose (At least it did in my mind. Click here to see the post). This post connected people and life's purpose - or lack of it.
It occurred to me that satisfaction may not be partnered with purpose initially.
When I'm drifting out of the window to another time, I think of how I'd like to work for myself and what it'd be like to wake up and operate on my terms, to prepare an experience for others, to join in other's good memories. These things would give me satisfaction.
Then I see myself looking out an imaginary coffee shop window wishing I was painting.
respect and being normal
I'm not sure how making pictures became so important to me, but I know I keep going after repeated failures. I enjoy preparing to paint and contemplating paintings, but the actual act of painting is just work. It is like prayer at best, but I haven't made it fully into prayer yet. Prayer is hard enough as it is. When I'm done and I look around to see several starts and stops, I am - I don't know the best way to say it - on track, in my own clothes, communing, at ease. I feel like I'm supposed to be engaged like this. Purposeful, even though the work has absolutely no value where I come from. It's just for me. Many imaginary lives bring satisfaction - the previously mentioned coffee shop/B and B - but few thoughts bring a sense of weight, direction, and quiet fullness that thoughts of painting bring. It would be easy to pursue a path that chased a practical occupation while sprinkling in art. People may even respect that. I'd like respect! Everyone does! But the Voice doesn't seem to emanate from that direction.
My point is that I don't want to be redirected from Purpose by Satisfaction. While there may be many roads that satisfy for a time, I want to keep feeding that which directs my soul. A well-practiced purpose-driven life should produce its own kind of satisfaction, but until I'm there, I need to keep my eyes on the small, simple things that amplify the voice of Purpose so I don't get lost.
To that end, I jumped on an opportunity. Scott Christensen (website) hosts workshops in Idaho. When this year started, I was pondering what I could do for my painting self. I first looked up Scott's website to see if he was offering his 10-day intensive workshop. He was not. Two shorter workshops were available, but I wanted more. Welp, the world turned a few times and - what do you know - Scott was coming - not to the East Coast, not to Florida or some drive 9 hours away, - but to a tiny place one hour away from my home for a four-day workshop. Have you ever heard of Leiper's Fork? Didn't think so.
It isn't ten days, but it's one hour away. I discussed it with my wife and I was in.
As I sit here, I am gathering supplies and courage to try not to embarrass myself. It's not a show, but I still want to look half competent. I just want to get all I can out of this opportunity. Seeing his work in Leiper's Creek Gallery or attending the demo would be satisfying, tasty morsels, but engaging an artist about art feeds my purpose.
So, that's where I am. Preparing for a workshop and anticipating Plein Air South - a couple of choices I made to follow the Voice of Purpose and find simple satisfaction along the way.
I sit here now looking out another window and wondering what is worth rearranging life for. Am I being selfish? Should I be more practical? Hardly any other person I know would spend the money on something like this. After all, it doesn't seem practical. It isn't groceries, a medical bill, or a car repair. Plus, it won't necessarily be fun. It will be work. I may be crushed. While I can't articulate it well, it just seems to me that some things in life are simply about Life itself - about living and living on purpose and for Purpose. Why on Earth would painting be someone's purpose? I don't know, except to say that it feeds the inner man, and speaks the language that the inner man understands. Ultimately, I just want to speak with one voice and painting helps me learn the alphabet of the spirit. It brings the inner man up to the surface of the skin.
After May is over, I will have no more time off from work. The summer will pass and holidays with their extended retail hours will return. I suspect that I will be standing near the front of the store waiting on customers, giving them my full attention - well, most of my attention. After they leave and I straighten up the aisles, I will once again find the window to give thanks and consider the potential that image-making holds for me at least, and for others at most.