person painting a subject

I caught a bit of a tv show, in which artists were competing to produce the portrait that would delight the judges most when the allotted time for their painting activity was up, although it was clear that taking part was rewarding for all involved anyway, no matter who actually ‘won’.

One of the contestants uttered a comment during the process which blew my mind! “As other people are essentially unknowable, we’re really just painting a version of ourselves”.

I agree. Other people are essentially unknowable, except in terms of what we construct in our minds, which could just as easily be provided as a description of a version of ourselves as of anyone else.

The enigmatic qualities we all have which render us unknowable are shared between us all, so we become connected through our unknowable nature.

We can present any picture we choose to create of ourselves to each other whenever we choose. We can paint any picture of each other and offer it up for interpretation, appreciation or recognition to anyone else at any point in time.

Whenever we do, the reason why we’re presenting this picture matters. What we hope for in doing so drives us towards our destiny, which is also unknowable.

What we hope to achieve, and what we hope that achievement might bring about in our lives, and whatever could come to pass as a result of that, is our preferred future; the destiny we would like to choose in as much as we have any say in the matter.

Along the way we paint portraits of ourselves and others through our thoughts, emotions and actions. This communication stains and restains our canvasses over and over again; a process occasionally interrupted by judges, who might arrive from within us or from somewhere external to us. We hope to delight the judges. Even if we don’t, there’s clearly still some reward to be found just by taking part.

Even if we seem to be competing at times, this life isn’t really a competition at all. It’s something we’re all constantly co-creating. Sometimes concentrating on the canvass in front of us, sometimes stepping back and looking at the others, then maybe at the broader activity we’re all engaged in, taking cues from what we notice to inform the next strokes of our brushes when we return to our canvass, over and over again, delighting when we recognise what we hoped to see appearing on our canvass, delighting even more when other people seem to recognise it too, despairing when it’s just not turning out right, persevering and taking whatever encouragement we can find, starting to recognise what we hoped to see again, on and on, over and over, just painting pictures, viewing pictures, drawing inspiration, changing direction, making it up, joining in, standing apart, rejoining, keeping on, occasionally with an eye on the clock.

I think we are all artists; essentially unknowable, yet recognisable, relatable and describable, and all connected through our taking part. We can seem different when viewed from a single angle in a single moment in time, yet strikingly similar when considered in our entirety.

We’re really all just painting a version of ourselves.

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