I always thought I should have been an artist. I have such vivid visions and a clear idea of what I want to make, but without the fine coordination to make it happen. What I didn’t understand was it takes a lot of practice for even the most gifted artists to learn and hone their skills to the level necessary. Perhaps if I had put the time in, with an open mind, that one would have put in since early childhood, I could come to the point where I could make what I want to happen, happen. That’s a lot of hours. I suspect it’ll take me way longer than it would take for me to become a decent shot.
I imagined that if only I had the eyes, I could do all these things with ease. Perhaps it is so, that when I was 4 or 5, these activities were more rewarding and over the course of my childhood I would have developed my skills to the point where I could make the visions I have come to life.
But there is another twist to this personal mythology.
I was listening to this recent episode of Radiolab about a scientist that became a professional artist. They suspect that she had gained very vivid visuals when some part of her brain broke down.
This story reminded me of my understanding of the brain, and my personal theory that all those synapses are adaptable and that you can form new habits, and re-appropriate portions of your brain for different things. I know that people who are blind use that visual area of the brain for different things. I know that I use mine differently, at least a tad, from the way other people use it.
If I had perfect eyes, there is no way for me to tell how I would have used that portion of my brain. There is no way for me to know how I would have approached art!
This is a crazy thought, but perhaps instead of storing information about hand-eye coordination, I USED that area for something else, like my visual aesthetic, my understanding of juxtaposition and composition, my very understanding of visual communication…
In another life, I could have been an athlete. I love the gym. I have no finesse. Why use a chisel when a hammer will do?
It could be even more dramatic.
In another life, this portion of my brain, and the many hours spent dreaming up visual landscapes, might have been spent on something even more different than the hand-eye coordination I lack, more extreme than martial arts or rock climbing. Maybe I would have been an architect. Maybe I would have been a violinist. MAYBE I would have just thrown that all out the window and devoted my life to science, chemistry, or math. Business?
As I brainstorm here, I am reminded of all the visual cues in normal communication that I miss, that I never learned. That I am trying to learn now. All those subtle gestures that I never picked up and I am deliberately trying to cue in on now, would have taken up space in the brain of a functional person, and I’m missing all of that. Instead of keeping track of such subtle cues learned from birth, I have to learn it all over again, using the left-brained logic hammer (I told you I wasn’t subtle).
So many fine-tuned adjustments were made to take advantage of my mental processing power, so many obstacles to overcome… there’s no way to know how my brain would have been mapped out if things turned out differently.
When I was growing up, I thought that art was what I was always meant to do, and my ideal profession was taken from me. But now I understand that I could never know what I would have done in another life. I could never know if I would have been drawn to art, enjoyed it, or even had the spectacular imagery, visual landscapes, or visual creativity, as I have developed in this real life.
It’s time for me to stop asking myself what I could have done, and appreciate what I can, and could, do now.
I love art. I am grateful that I can enjoy such a thing, both conceptually, with my imperfect eyes, and through my uncertain hands. It’s time to fully embrace and appreciate what I have.