Discovering the Greatest Within Your Own Life in Order to Find the Greatest All Around You
During my years as a newspaper photojournalist each day was one great picture hunt after another. This was particularly true when the news was scarce, and it was up to our department to scour the neighborhoods for interesting and meaningful visual moments.
Each one of the staff members had a idea of what greatness looked like visually, and strove to capture this on film – yes this was before the digital age. We each had unique visions, but had one common goal: to inspire with great images.
While I no longer shoot professionally, the word inspiration is one I consider often when working with my clients as a somatic psychotherapist. In addition to a myriad of other concerns, people often seek out therapy when they have forgotten how to feel inspired by something – anything – in their lives.
So, when a friend of mine showed me The Photographer’s Playbook- 307 Assignments and Ideas, I was struck by how each of the assignments, written by teachers the authors admired, could be applied to both achieving artistic greatness, but also as inspiration for finding Greatness with a capital G anywhere in life.
Consider the following assignment entitled The Greatest Assignment by photographer, artist and educator Dennis Keeley:
“So what is greatness? Is it a quality? An invention? A discovery? Can you compare one thing to another? I think somewhere on the edge of excellence, on its perfect edge, just before its fall into failure, is something that invites greatness. It could be a vision, an accident or a discovery.
You have to begin by identifying the greatness in your own life. It is important that you recognize what the world regards as great, but it is equally critical that you create in your own mind an individualized hierarchy of great places, buildings, events, revelations, and memories, as well as a criteria for your personal experience of greatness. If you cannot identify, qualify, or contrast, or uncover the hidden parts of greatness, it is more difficult to prioritize your own processes and procedures in making work.
It’s easier than you think to make your list because greatness can speak directly to you. It should be a natural observation. It can be weather, a favorite shirt, a person, or a special memory. For me, art and music were just a natural test of my own power of observation.
We live in a world defined by “good enough” everyday. In defining greatness for yourself, you are declaring that there is more to you than meets the casual eye.”
Keeley then assigns the reader to do the following: List your fifty greatest things in life, in order.
So, I am starting my list right now. I will not bore you with fifty, but will add 10 to the following list over the next few days as I open up my dialogue of what greatness means to me.
1) Those fleeting moments when all feels right in the world and nothing needs to change.
2) Looking at the details of a butterfly’s wing or the petal of a flower
3) When a horse decides to come over and sniff me
4) Watching professional dancers bodies move across a space
5) When a dog sits on my foot or cat drapes itself over my leg
6) Reading a sentence in a book that is so beautiful it takes my breath away.
7) Witnessing daily acts of kindness between people
8) The way I feel in my body when I am dancing with a partner who knows how to lead
9) Diving under a wave in the Atlantic Ocean when it is about to crash down
10) Standing in nature when a light snow storm descends.
What does greatness mean to you, and how can you tap into this to find inspiration in your life?