Thursday, May 7, 2009

Art As Spiritual Practice

Art As Spiritual Practice

"I believe that each one of us has a riddle to solve, the riddle of what it means to be human."  Frederick Franck

I've been thinking about Frederrick Franck lately, a truly amazing character, a doctor, (if I recall correctly) an artist, a writer and a Zen practitioner.   I own a second hand copy of his book:  "The Zen of Seeing:  Seeing/Drawing as meditation."  I like that it  has a dedication to it's former owner inside the front cover.  It says: "Shantaya, sweetheart, whatever profession you take up, always continue with your art.  Take another perspective with this book.  Love Dad /94"  So I have 2 stories for the price of one!  But I digress. This is a gorgeous little book, hand printed by Franck and filled with his tender, delicate sketches.

Franck who died at the age of 96 in 2006 taught courses (and the book I have is like sitting in on his class) on seeing/drawing as a spiritual act.  He says when you draw you must actually see deeply, that the drawing experience is an opportunity to experience the miracle of what is around us.  The drawing is in itself a meditation.

Even if drawing isn't your thing, when you read Franck, you will search the drawers for a pencil.  You may tenderly trace the lines of your toes or a lady bug or a weed in the garden, whatever catches your attention.  You see, he says, it isn't about the skill or talent that we believe an artist needs to come here with, it's about the ability to truly see, to slow down and see.  And we each have our own quirky way of seeing things.  This accounts for the uniqueness of what we create.  This is the gift we bring to the world on many levels.

I love the distinction Franck makes between "looking" and "seeing".  He says:  "Looking and seeing both begin with sense perception, but there the similarity ends.  When I "look" at the world and label its phenomena, I make immediate choices, instant appraisals.  I like or I dislike.  I accept or I reject......  The purpose of looking is to survive, to cope, to manipulate, to discern what enhances or diminishes the "me".   When I see I am suddenly all eyes.  I forget the ME, and am liberated from it and dive into the reality of what confronts me....  It is in order to see, ... more deeply that I draw....  I have learned that what I have not drawn I have never really seen..... I discover that among the ten thousand things there is no ordinary thing."  Got you sharpening your pencil yet?

"The  Zen of Seeing" is filled with wonderful stories of Franck's travels and quotes and Dharma, always Dharma.  He was a wise and talented man.  At the end of her interview with him for the Tricycle piece, writer, Tracy Cochran asks him (and this is the same year he died)  What is really important in the end?  Franck's reply:  "Awakening the heart, without a doubt."    

1 comment:

  1. "I believe that each one of us has a riddle to solve, the riddle of what it means to be human." Frederick Franck

    Clearly Fred missed the entire point!! Meaning????? To paraphrase Tina "What's MEANING got to do with it"???