Portrait of my life

I want to think and write about what is important in my life. I want my life to expand and to grow. By my own admission I tend to live, too much I fear on auto-pilot. My worldview today was formed early on in life and with some minor adjustments it has remained unmodified. A lot of my adult thinking relies on mental developments and perceptions I fashioned when I was a juvenile.

But I’m in good company – Freud understood this universal human condition. The strong and lingering effects of a child’s passionate desires, inadequate understanding, restricted emotional development and undeveloped coping mechanisms haunt our adult lives. But it is unseemly that such an intelligent species is designed with much of its emotional and mental maturity so profoundly shaped by childhood.

Can there be an escape – I wonder? This kind of thinking is not rewarding to be sure, some would say it is even dangerous. Thinking about how to escape my childlike tendencies and how to better live does not pay the bills, but it is important. This examination is like painting a self-portrait.

Why it is that no photograph can have the same depth of a painted portrait? The two are completely different embodiments of time. A photograph – even if posed for – is a snapshot in time. It is a moment, two dimensional and immediate. Superficial.

A painting is sat for over an extended period of time. Over that period the subject displays a range of traits, thoughts and emotions. All this is revealed in differing lights at different times of day. The artist combines different glimpses of the person, choosing one aspect here – a tightening muscle there. A glint of light, a deepening of line. And so the master interweaves different portions of surface – never before simultaneously exhibited, to produce a much fuller portrait and a much deeper one. No amount of digital manipulation to a photo can replicate this process.

The painter concentrates a person over an extended time into a presence in a single moment. Because so much more time is concentrated into a painting than a photograph, we naturally want to spend more time before it. Letting the person unfold. And so it is with the examination of my life – it is a process much the same as understanding the complex portrait that I am.

“Citizens of Athens” Socrates asked “aren’t you ashamed you care so much about making all the money you can and advancing your reputation and prestige, while for truth and wisdom and the improvement of your souls you have no thought or care?”

And so I stand before my own portrait and more than the lines left by crushed reputation or unrealised prestige I look for the faint smile that is the progress of my spirit. If I look hard enough I know it’s there.


About Tom Cottrell

Tom is a struggling author, pilgrim and citizen of Planet Earth.
Gallery | This entry was posted in 11 - Spirit and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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