Featured post in our StudioVox Series - "What is a Creative Life?"
By Robert Madden - Artist

How is it that I think of myself as an artist?

I think as an artist thinks, in that, I look for the beauty in all things. I look for the love in every situation, whether it appears to be there or not, as I know, what we look for, we draw forth into our experience. Artists don't see the world as it is, we see it as we know it can be.

When I was younger, I read often on a variety of subjects. I loved to put quotes up all around me, reminding me of what I was striving for, by those whom I admired. This one, by Alfred Lord Tennyson, impressed me so much it was on the wall of my office at work, at home and on the cover of my journal:

"Self-Reverence, Self-Knowledge, Self Control; These three alone lead to sovereign power."

 - Alfred Lord Tennyson

I thought about it often and believed I was well on my way to the mastery of it, yet it wasn't until recently, after a situation I hadn't anticipated, when I realized I hadn't any idea what these attributes were, what it means to have mastered them, nor did I understand how important these traits were to the establishment of an individual's sovereignty.

Without these, a man seems to be adrift, always reacting to circumstances and situations, in futile attempts to control the life around him, when the only thing we ever have complete control over is how we feel about whatever is happening, and of course, our reaction to it.

Self-Reverence is essential, as it is the foundation from which develops Self-Love. Without cultivating a healthy love of self, it is impossible to love another.

Self-Respect is probably the single most important trait a human can possess for it affects every choice we make, while it fills our experience with love. Love is productive, creative, inspirational and expansive. It's good for everyone.

Self-Knowledge causes us to know who we are, therefore we know what we want. Where there is certainty, there is no fear, where there is no fear, love prevails. When love prevails, there is no need for lies. Lies only complicate things, causing those who are engaged with the lie, to live in a play of someone else's making. No one gets the opportunity to be real, to be true, because the entire experience is based in that which isn't true.

The lie tricks us into believing there isn't a choice other than the hideous one before us. It doesn't matter how low it gets, there are always at least two choices. It may appear both choices are equally horrible, but if you will go with the one that feels better, even if it is marginally better, then before you know it, you'll have gradually cultivated choices which are more supportive of that which you have determined you are.

Even better, it tells us when we are lying to ourselves and if we have cultivated listening to our Self, it will make us stop the lie. Nothing feels better than shaking off something you know isn't your truth. I had made a series of choices gradually, which traded my self-respect, self-love, self-determination, for comfort.

I had allowed that which is unacceptable to become acceptable because I was comfortable. I could see how the choices I made contributed to my situation getting better or worsening. I could feel it wasn't right, so I did what I had to do, which rendered me homeless for a little while, but I was free.

I knew myself, so I knew I was strong enough to come back from what I had once believed I couldn't overcome. I had thought Self-Control was resisting something I wanted. Now I see the cultivation of Self-Control as an ongoing discipline which allows us to not get enmeshed in the theatrics of the material world. We understand what we are seeing is not about us, nor is it being done to us. It is simply happening. We may embrace it in any way we choose. No matter how we choose to embrace it, our being expands. As our being expands, our ability to feel and absorb whatever occurs, expands, too.

There is never anything happening, but our being and becoming. How does this confirm to me, I am an artist? This experience is artful to me. It uplifted me to a more expansive being who is now capable of absorbing, feeling, seeing in a more deeply meaningful way. I believe this is why I came here and my art is the natural expression of this life I live.

Robert Madden is a Los Angeles based artist and photographer.  You can see more of his work here and on StudioVox.

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