A tiny cross made by Father Theophan this week from a piece of apricot wood. Courtesy photo
BY FATHER THEOPHAN
St. Job of Pochaiv Orthodox Church
After the last fiasco of wood checking, I split my little pieces of apricot and made a cross this morning. Once again, I was taking a break from the work that I am supposed to be doing and have been slogging away at for the past few weeks. It’s simple and plain, but it’s something I could finish in an hour and be done with, instead of having to prep clay, wedge, throw, clean-up, then trim and dry and fire.
A lot of art takes a lot of time, not even taking into account the years of learning it takes to become proficient in a discipline. Malcolm Gladwell, in “Outliers: The Story of Success” posits that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. Others may disagree, and it is a subjective thing, but a master’s degree is usually about 3 years, which on top of a bachelor’s degree, should net nearly 10,000 hours in a field, depending on how studious one is.
It is a long time to be committed to one thing. And if we practice less, it takes even longer.
But it is consistency in the small things that develops proficiency, in all things, not just art.
Jobs require the same commitment, although we can usually foresee the payout and conversely the consequences of being proficient or not, and can choose accordingly. The school, the study, the exams, and the time are all the same.
Our relationships require similar little things. Friends, family, partners, all require the daily little things that keep us connected. Sure, it’s all fine and good to go all out with a dramatic profession of affection on Valentines Day or for an Anniversary or Birthday, but if it doesn’t come from a place of regular, consistent connection, it will always ring hollow. It is the “checking in”, the doing dishes, or regular date nights.
If we are intentional, we can become proficient, or at least better, friends and partners. Too often we take our relationships for granted, that the other will always be there and always be happy to be with us. But it is a process, as every good thing is, that takes attention and effort. Yes, at times that effort seems effortless, and the task is joyfully undertaken, but not always. And in the times when it is not easy, it is even more important to do it. It means infinitely more.
That is discipline, that is commitment, that is responsibility.
I have resigned myself to the fact that I won’t be producing much art this summer. Responsibilities, contracted of my own will, have taken precedence. So small projects will have to suffice for now. Or small improvements to the traveling chapel, which will never actually be completed. I’ve also been appointed to the Los Alamos Arts Council, so I’ll stay plugged in that way at least.
Maybe I’ll even get to cleaning out my studio and shop.
One can always hope.