I grew up in a time before the internet, cell phones, and mobile technology in general. As a kid I remember the hours I spent drawing, writing, playing outside, and just plain creating. I also spent chunks of time in my imagination visualizing and coming up with ideas about what to draw, build, or write next. I took inspiration from nature, friends, books, and my surroundings.
My generation is considered Generation X. As we grew up we traversed the bridge between what we thought was a normal existence into the high-paced world of technology as we are familiar with today. Looking back it felt like we went through some sort of space vortex and now we find ourselves inundated with the virtual world at every single turn. Our jobs, personal lives, dating habits, school, and every and all forms of entertainment have now been harnessed and tied up into this technological black hole of no return.
Enter the stone carver
While perusing my email one day I came across one of John P. Weiss‘s newsletters highlighting a short film (see below) of the stone carver Anna Rubincam.
As I get older I become increasingly interested in subjects outside of my comfort zone of health and fitness. My mind is becoming more open to different viewpoints, vocations, and interest areas of others. I particularly have taken an affinity toward those who have found their bliss and can achieve intense focus and flow.
Anna is a stone carver. In her short film you can clearly see her ability to focus and get to that point of flow that we all secretly yearn for.
“It’s a mistake for a sculpture or painter to speak or write very often about his job. It releases tension needed for his work.”Henry Moore
There isn’t much dialog — more of a quiet, deliberate explanation of her process and mindset. There is no excessive fluff or needless self-promotion, just her, the stone, and her all-encompassed focus on her craft.
The epitome of deep work
I must have watched the video a dozen times. I was absolutely mesmerized by the subtle but powerful atmosphere cultivated by her passion for stone carving. It was void of her taking selfies with her work, chatting on her phone, scanning images on a laptop, or an Instagram handle highlighted at the end. It was just her, the stone, and her hand tools.
There was this comfortable quiet that took over the scene. A deliberate but familiar focus toward creativity that draws you into her world not of stone carving particularly, but of deep work and flow. Feelings we were all once familiar with long ago before technology took over our work, time, and lives.
The more I allowed myself to get lost in the work she was doing the more certain parts of my brain started to light up and become awake. Nearly foreign areas that have laid dormant for years just now coming to the forefront.
“Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.”George Lois
I felt as though I was onto something as if I finally had some clues to some age-old mystery. My creative voice started to clear its throat and had something to say.
Rediscovering creativity (old and new)
That started to take me back to my creative days. Drawing, writing, creating. They never left. They’ve just been dormant for so many years and this was just another secret hint knocking on the door to come in.
Another mounting pile of evidence is my son. He’s taken to writing and drawing. He tells stories, reads books, and constructs tactile things. It’s yet another opportunity for me to get back in touch with my creative side just for its own sake — not for any monetary gain or vanity reasons, but for the pure joy of it.
It felt as though it was time to cut ties with so much technology, to take out all my old art work, and to partner with my son on his journey into creativity. To look at the past as fuel for the future. To enrich my mind once again with art for its own sake.
Applying more tactile work in life
If you take stock in what inspires you the most it most-likely will be something tactile, something you can see or touch. A beautifully carved piece of stone replete with intricate detail conveys hours, days, and weeks are intense focus, frustration, and flow. It signals a deployment of immense creative energy and patience that is foreign to our digitized lives. We will often look in awe at something that contains a little of someone’s soul. We detect it. We can feel it.
There is little comparison between the sense of accomplishment from something tactile versus through a screen. How many social media accounts are truly inspiring? Not just a catchy quote or post that will be soon forgotten, but something that draws real attention and action.
Building out of wood, metal, stone, or clay, writing long-form prose, drawing a painstaking piece of art that took many weeks and months of preparation. These are just a few things that stamp an indelible mark on our souls. This can even include a deep and private conversation, a teachable moment, or genuine help from a stranger. These tactile, nondigital moments of life still have true, sincere, lasting meaning in our lives.
I know that I must give it more attention. It won’t be smooth, easy, or without fail, but I must blaze that trail once again.
“That which we persist in doing becomes easier — not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.”Emerson
Anna Rubincam is what we need more of in this world. We mustn’t feel overwhelmed with social media, news, or other digital domains. We should open ourselves to the positive overwhelm of more creativity, focus, and flow.
I for one will welcome this shift. Enjoy the film.
“Once you’ve created something it takes up a physical space in the world and it has a permanence that will hopefully outlast you.”Anna Rubincam