A few months ago, I made a flying visit to Dallas to present a lecture. Only 30 minutes before I left for the airport did I receive some unwelcome news that could have meant a sharp decline in my income. In the past, I would have been stressed — and the news was certainly unwelcome. But instead of worrying about the future, I focused on what might be a gateway opened to a new adventure and to new possibilities. Nothing is static in life, and it is essential to embrace the future with a positive mind.
It’s pretty common for people to gripe about their hometowns, of course, but a couple of friends that had grown up in Dallas suggested there and that I shouldn’t expect much.
My experience was totally unlike anything I expected. Besides being welcomed by new friends, I was able to spend time looking around the Dallas Museum of Art; I stumbled across a strange and quite beautiful restaurant called Bullion (a long, narrow construction, covered on the outside by thousands of gold scales, and suspended from a neighboring building). I got to visit the city’s oldest metaphysical store, The Labyrinth.
Although I don’t think the cautious pessimism about the city was at all accurate, it is also a matter of consciousness. A painting teacher once remarked to me that an artist could “never be bored” because, he said, there is always something interesting to find. It is, he suggested, a matter of seeing.
Another way of putting it is that an artist always finds what is beautiful: beautiful in the environment, in buildings (modern or ancient), in the energy of a place, in friends (old or new) or the people we’re lucky enough to get to spend time with.
Today, in certain sections of society, there is a great desire to find ugliness. As we all know, social media is filled with noxious commentary, attacks on others, and exaggerations and distortions of their views and who they are. Again, the media fixates on politics, ranting about things they find intolerable in politicians they dislike — though they often ignore the same offenses when committed by those they like or feel to be on “their side”.
There is a continuous appeal to us to see the worst and to reduce the world to a simple matter of them versus us and good versus evil.
It is difficult to resist but we must struggle with ourselves to overcome this dark, mesmerizing force. For when we divide the world into “them” and “us” we divide our own self, with half our energy going to what we dislike and only half remaining for our own life.
Taking control of our lives and making our lives great requires finding the good in life — the good in friendships, family, nature, in living truthfully, pushing ourselves beyond our fears. And it requires finding beauty even if it is only in the small things.
It is not a matter of fooling ourselves or of lacking the ability to discern between good and bad. It is a matter of training our consciousness to focus on what gives us joy and, as such, what strengths us and fortifies us against that which would drag us down.