The devil is in the de­tails

The Covington News - - Opinion -

As the say­ing goes, the devil is in the de­tails. It means the devil will have his way with you if you don’t pay at­ten­tion to the finer points in the big plans or schemes that you might de­vise. He’s a crafty fel­low and lies in wait in the most in­nocu­ous spots to trip you up.

When my big pic­ture turns fuzzy and gets out of fo­cus, it is to the de­tails that I turn to try to make some sense and walk my way out of the fog. On days when there are so many things that must be done and oth­ers that ought to be done, my re­sponse is to find one thing, one small job, that can be ac­com­plished quickly, then an­other, then an­other. Hav­ing cre­ated some mo­men­tum and a sense of ac­com­plish­ment, the big pic­ture starts to be­come clearer. In do­ing so, I’ve taken my mind off the enor­mity of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and obli­ga­tions and turned to the de­tails as if they were the steps on a lad­der lead­ing me out of in­de­ci­sion and ac­tion paral­y­sis.

These days, when I con­tem­plate the state and shape of world af­fairs, it would be all too easy to turn to fear and fright­en­ing what if’s. But be­cause I con­sciously re­ject liv­ing in a state of fear and those who ped­dle fear as a rea­son to do or not do some­thing, I find my peace by fo­cus­ing on the small things, the de­tails, that are pleas- ing, grat­i­fy­ing and sat­is­fy­ing. They might be things like whip­ping up a cre­ative meal with sum­mer’s bounty, writ­ing an over­due note to a dis­tant cousin, straight­en­ing my desk, tak­ing a bag of un­used items and clut­ter to the sec­ond-hand store, or or­ga­niz­ing the odds and ends drawer in the laun­dry room. It’s not cre­at­ing world peace or cur­ing can­cer, but it’s a start to­ward cre­at­ing or­der out of men­tal dis­or­der. The time spent im­mersed in sim­ple de­tails gives your brain a rest and respite from larger wor­ries, thereby open­ing the door to an­swers that can emerge from the depths and quiet in your be­ing.

Med­i­ta­tion works that way, of course, by still­ing our minds and open­ing us to the “king­dom within,” but too many of us, in­clud­ing me, would rather be do­ing some­thing, any­thing, than just be­ing phys­i­cally at rest. It is an un­healthy ob­ses­sion, and I’m work­ing on it. Just 10 min­utes a day in med­i­ta­tion is sup­posed to be enough to ease chronic stress, de­com­press brain cells, lower blood pres­sure and im­prove over­all health.

Only re­cently, I stum­bled into an­other ac­tiv­ity that turns out to be — for me — as med­i­ta­tive as sit­ting qui­etly, palms up­turned with a still mind, wait­ing for spirit to speak. First let me say that my cre­ativ­ity ex­tends only as far as the kitchen and an oc­ca­sional turn of a phrase in this space ev­ery week. I was an inat­ten­tive pi­ano stu­dent in third grade, tone deaf when it came to play­ing in the band, which I didn’t, and still couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket if life de­pended on it. Nei­ther did I have any tal­ent in draw­ing or paint­ing, I proved over and over. I be­came a reader and a writer.

When my friend, the artist and gallery owner Carol Ve­li­o­tis, of­fered Sun­day af­ter­noon paint­ing classes ear­lier this year, I turned my tone deaf ear to the propo­si­tion, still con­vinced of my in­ept­ness as an artist. Sales­woman that she is, she lured me a few weeks ago to try a class, just one, and I agreed, if noth­ing more than to break out of a rut.

The plan was for the class of six to pick a paint­ing to copy as a group, and we de­cided on a land­scape. For the next two hours, Carol guided us step-by-step through sketch­ing the out­lines, se­lect­ing col­ors, pick­ing the right brush, mix­ing paints and de­cid­ing de­tails that would made each ef­fort unique. Dur­ing the class, my fo­cus was on noth­ing but the can­vas be­fore me. Any­thing else on my mind was com­pletely dis­lodged, and the world be­came lim­ited to the task at hand. Noth­ing mat­tered out­side that class­room. We worked qui­etly as Carol of­fered help­ful hints. The orig­i­nal pic­ture of a house on a dis­tant hill be­came for me a Tus­can vista with sheep graz­ing peace­fully be­yond a rip­pling wa­ter­way, the fa­mil­iar lineup of Ital­ian cy­press trees out­lin­ing hills on a rolling land­scape, with tra­di­tional red pop­pies clumped jaun­tily about. Ev­ery­one’s was dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent.

I didn’t prove my­self to be an artist, by any means, but I dis­cov­ered the med­i­ta­tive qual­ity of im­mers­ing one­self in a per­sonal craft while the rest of the world roils on. My paint­ing is enough of a like­ness to waft me away to Ital­ian farm­land where time seems to have paused. I found re­lease and peace in the de­tails.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.