My dad wrote about the alchemist, on the first pages: About doing and being, but also about wanting and being able, and how you always have enough to fulfill your personal legend. Lately, I’ve been reading the Alchemist by Paolo Coelho again, and I have been going back to that line… although I must say I mostly find it a beautiful phrase and perfect summary- it is harder to bring it into practice. What do I do? How am I? What do I want, And what am I able to do? Also- What is my personal legend?
Together with a friend of mine, we are working at a kind of group-activity-series on the relationship between art and religion, or rather art and the soul. The connection between art and spirituality- ‘How can we meet God in the images around us?’ How have people throughout history referred to the figure of Jesus, the stories of the Bible and Love, Hope, Faith, and Divinity? Whereas I was trained as an art historian- my co-organiser is a self-declared ‘un-aware’ person. And the reason why this is actually happening is that he was excited to go to a museum with an expert, to learn how to look at art- He organized this activity and since it went well, we decided to elaborate.
Part of the development of the whole things means reading some books on the subject- and so he texted me after reading a bit: ‘I’m quite proud to notice that I actually recognise some of this stuff- I already knew something about art and philosophy, so my education throughout the years did somehow pay off.‘ I responded with a more philosophical idea which is actually the reason for me writing this post- ‘I think we often think that we know nothing because we are insecure about what we know’.
I think this insecurity about the knowledge we have goes beyond insecurity or lack of confidence– that would even suggest that mostly insecure and un-confident people struggle with this issue… I think it has more to do with how we value and educate and test knowledge… or even more how we are taught to access this knowledge. Nowadays so much of education is letting the student figure out the answer for themselves- this is not bad because it is a quite active way of learning… However, I think that this creates a strange place where even though you are not convinced entirely of the things you found- you found the answer yourself and that was the idea, so you have acquired knowledge, but you haven’t tested it with someone who knows more. I believe we need that, not necessarily an expert saying we are not stupid, but conversations and interactions with another who knows a little more or sees a little differently- helping us to re-evaluate what we know, and also to learn to value what we do and do not know.
I think that also ties back to the alchemist, or rather my fathers’ description- I have seen people doing something every day, being themselves, wanting things and achieving things and still unsure about the value of all of that- unaware about their personal legend… Sure in today’s social media at least a vast amount of people constantly seem to prove who they are, what they do, what they want and what they are able to do, but I feel that this also a constant framing of yourself and looking for outside approval. There is an image of who they are- but being is something more.
My father has another theory. It throws the whole thing upside down- the focus is less on who you are or who you pretend to be- rather he has a theory about why you do what you do: Doing = knowing + being able + wanting + being. Perhaps, to find our personal legend somehow, this doing matters- knowledge is part of it but not all that is needed. For a long time, I wanted to somehow create a place for art and spirituality, but it did not happen until my co-organiser came along. I always seemed to lack the being able that is required for doing, however, he is who he is wanted a group like this and realised that he was able to do it with my knowledge- yet now it becomes clear that even with thinking you lack certain knowledge, when you start doing, you find the knowledge that is so much of the reason why you do what you do- even when you thought you didn’t have it.