Seeing Mundanity Through the Eyes of an Almond Tree: Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh

Graphite on paper by way of the digital world

Still of day 259

The Creative Meanderings #5: The Interconnection of art, seeing, cups, and mundanity.

while many of us can see art, to comprehend and experience art we need feeling, thought, and imagination.

When I drew as a child, what I found on the reams of paper my parents provided was a joyous and serious expression of simply me and the crayon, or pen or paintbrush.

As I taught myself how to draw, everything I learned and processed seemed to come back to one notion: seeing. As I grew, I challenged myself to see differently and to express what I saw on surfaces. And soon I learned that truly seeing is a joint effort between the eyes and the mind.

Our eyes only comprehend shadows and forms, while our minds give names, feelings, and meaning to what we see. As an artist, to capture the reality of something or someone I have to look beneath and beyond what I see. Soon a face is not eyes, nose, and mouth, but flesh, muscle, and bone and beyond that are feeling, person, and history.

A few months ago, I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness. As I read the book and worked on CognEYEzant, chapter six “The Almond Tree in Your Front Yard” made me pause.

In the world of Buddhism and mindfulness, there is the notion of interconnectedness which Thich Nhat Hanh expresses by way of an almond tree,

“an almond tree that may be in your front yard reveals its nature in perfect wholeness. The almond tree is itself truth, reality, your own self. Of all the people who have passed by your yard, how many have really seen the almond tree? The heart of an artist may be more sensitive; hopefully he or she will be able to see the tree in a deeper way than many others.”

To understand interconnectedness, imagine the cup you drink from. Then imagine all the time, eons, and matter and people that came together to make and form the glass. Imagine the people who drove the truck to the store, and assembled the shelf on which the cup sat until you came along.

Interconnectedness is looking at your cup and realizing the cup itself connects you to everything that made the cup possible. And the cup, by giving you water every day, makes you possible. Perhaps everything is a part of you, and you are a part of everything, no matter how unrelated it all may seem.

Perhaps through art, we can directly experience interconnectedness because when we look at a painting or artifact created by someone long dead, a lingering of the artist remains. And while many of us can see art, to comprehend and experience art we need feeling, thought, and imagination.

Perhaps if we use both our minds and bodies, thoughts and perceptions, we may shift from simply seeing to comprehending. And begin to learn of the vastness, mystery, and interconnectedness in the world and people surrounding us.

day 259 and Thich Nhat Hanh

Creative prompt: interconnected-mundane-dot creation.
  1. Think of something (or someone) mundane.
  2. Imagine all the resources, effort, time etc. that went into that person or thing. Imagine all the people, all the thoughts.
  3. Imagine how you essentially are these things and people.
  4. Then, especially if all your deep thoughts have made you uncomfortable, make a connect-the-dots drawing.
    1. The first dot representing you and the last representing the mundanity you chose. All the dots in-between you can mark as the people and things connecting you to the mundane person or object.
    2. Connect the dots in a pattern of your choosing. 
  5. Share your interconnected-mundane-dot creation. If you share via Instagram or other social media sites use the hashtag #cogneyezant.