“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” [Sun Tzu, The Art of War, quoted by John Jantsch in Duct Tape Marketing].
I know a person whose ideas on a particular topic I would like to change. I have realized recently how we all have unconscious resistance to such change based on various experiences going back years. I estimate that it will take four years for this change to occur. I thought I would design a program, beginning with just loving and learning to love him, and learning to understand what his relevant experience has been and why he thinks as he does. Then, without criticizing his ideas, I will slowly begin sharing some value that I have experienced along a different path. I have no idea whether I will be successful, but at least I have a strategy.
Artistic living is about giving back: there is so much beauty around us, beauty in truth on all levels, beauty in goodness, beauty in nature, beauty in the arts, and beauty in our lives when we are living at our best. Artistic living adds beauty to our relationships, activities, and environment. Artistic living comes from an emotionally harmonious place, and it has a quality of spontaneity. But that spontaneity does not just come about mindlessly.
There is a design component involved in spontaneity. Mature spontaneity is not impulse; at some level, design operates. At its simplest, design is established when we make a great decision to be loyal to a value. After that decision, we enter situations with new questions in the back of our minds, a new way of interpreting things, and new motivation to act. Design contributes to spontaneity, not by falsely thrusting itself forward as a necessary prelude to every action, but by decisions that structure the field of action. Going beyond basic decisions, design chooses the means to achieve the goal. This choosing can be done in considerable detail, specifying choices for many variables, the way an architect does. Design prepares the intelligent direction of artistic action.
The simplest design is set forth in Jessica Somers Driver’s a method for public speaking, a method that can be helpful in any creative process. I’ll give quick summaries of a few chapters from her book, Speak for Yourself.
Chapter 1, “The Starting Point,” teaches that the ideas or truths that we are to express in public speaking are all around us and are not our personal possession. Second, she teaches that if we abide deeply in the truth to be communicated, we will find everything we need to express it.
Chapter 2, “The Three Essentials,” sets forth her method: “listening, valuing, expressing.” Listening for the idea, the truth, involves discernment (and it can be prayerful listening). The idea—the truth you need—comes to you. Valuing it means staying with the idea, following this truth wherever it leads . . . until the expression becomes spontaneous. That free and vivid quality of spontaneous communication emerges naturally from the first two steps. (This is a method that can be used in any creative endeavor.)
Chapter 3, “Listening,” describes the creative and discerning openness that lets ideas come to mind.
Chapter 4, “Value Your Ability to Express Ideas,” describes the activity of following through the with idea, staying with it until it becomes fully clear. Valuing one’s ability is also part of this, but self-consciousness is not, since the idea or truth you are communicating is not personal to you; it is objective, so to speak, part of reality. It is not “your idea.” She concludes, “Have you ever quietly, sincerely, told yourself that you are the light of the world? Try doing it. You will not feel proud but purposeful and poised—gracious toward all who are around you.”
Chapter 5, “Visualizing,” teaches how concretely we must sense the idea we are following. By the way, the single most important principle in Part II on reading aloud is to bring vividly to mind the meaning of each word as you say it. When you see something so vividly, you will be able to convey that life to your hearers.
Chapter 6, “Spontaneity,” encourages you in “that instant response to the inspiration of ideas . . . [that] keeps your activities fresh and varied, your voice young, your reading conversational and convincing, your speech full of life.”
Chapter 7, “Rhythm,” explains that “rhythm includes style and timing” and is—“inherent in an idea.” This notion of what is inherent in an idea is, if you will, the mystical element of her method, and it is worth reflecting in what way this is meaningful to you. I would put it thus: that any truth, deeply grasped, has beauty and contains the potentials of goodness. I believe that Jessica Driver is expressing this general truth in a delightfully concrete and applied way. Every situation has its own rhythm, and upon entering a room, for example, one does well to be receptive to it, to tune in. With anything we are trying to express, be it a concept or a tree or a technical method, we can leave self-will aside and open ourselves to its “rhythm.”
What experiences have you had with planning, organizing, or designing a course of action? Do you have experience with simple design? With complex design? What have you learned that would help us beginners in artistic living?
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