The skill of perception

The skill of perception

If creativity is the ability to perceive relationships then perception must be the skill that opens the door to invention. I doubt you will dispute that. Extend the thought and ask what is the skill of perception? From the baby that glances around as soon as it is able to see, to the blind person who is aware of what is happening about them even if not precisely why, perception is a skill that is partly instinctive, partly trained. The learned bit reinforces the instinctive survival habit.

Conundrum: Why does a farmhand look down at the ground when walking across the countryside whereas the city dweller keeps his head up to see the amazing beauty of nature? The answer is that the farmhand already knows the beauty and wants to be warned about what he is to step into; the city dweller is on a discovery of sights and sounds. Farmhands boots are always clean.

How do we become perceptive, especially if we are not instinctively interested or do not have a thirst for learning? Paradoxically, by being creative – by turning what we see into stories and adventures way beyond the simple observations we make. Lectures about how important it is to be observant fall on deaf ears. A ‘duty to be interested in everything’ is as irrelevant to the budding creative as would be tears at a wedding to Trump. We perceive to create; we create to perceive.

We all know about the agony of the long-distance runner. Forcing heart, nerve and sinew to continue serving is surely tough. Actually, the harder task is making the first move, whether as a child, a recovering patient or someone facing disastrous loss. The courage of that first step is best know to drug addicts, to those breaking up a relationship, to someone finding an independence from faith. These pains can only be handled when we have a vision beyond the immediate effort.

That vision is a story, as should be all visions. It can be a story of hope, of wild exaggeration, of love. It should be a positive story, however exciting and incredible. And it must be incredible. Our credibility is portrayed only by the incredibility of our stories. Hearts that pump blood invent marathon journeys – just as well, for that is what they turn out to be. Circulation, never better.

When you part with a car that has served you for some time, give it a little pat as your say goodbye to it. Will the car feel and appreciate the pat? Almost certainly not. But you will, and so will all those who see you do it. How we treat people is often mirrored in how we treat things .

The old army instruction was “If it moves, salute it; if it doesn’t, paint it”. A useful if slightly prosaic advisory. I suggest a new one: “If it moves, enliven it; if it doesn’t, animate it”. Everything is capable of being fun and all fun is learning. Release the tigers; let them roam through your mind.

You may not be called Oscar but you can still be very Wilde.

Paint with words.