The receptive spectator

If a man approaches a work of art with any desire
to exercise authority over it and the artist,
he approaches it in such a spirit that
he cannot receive any artistic impression from it at all. The work of art is to dominate the spectator:
the spectator is not to dominate the work of art.
The spectator is to be receptive.
He is to be the violin on which the master is to play. And the more completely he can suppress
his own silly views, his own foolish prejudices, his own absurd ideas of what Art should be, or should not be, the more likely he is to understand and appreciate the work of art in question.

Oscar Wilde

Too often we impose our views, our uninformed perspective on the world, and we miss its profundity, its wonder and its good fortune.

Our rush to make sense out of the mysterious, to navigate the ambiguity, is to be blind to the art of seeing the innumerable opportunities that are right in front of us.

I believe that everything that we experience, and every person we encounter is on our path for a purpose. There is no real luck or accidents. Life is unfolding and evolving without our efforts. If we are receptive and open our eyes and our hearts the miracle and wonder of life will resonate with who you are and want to be.

Are we willing to pay attention, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks?

Or do we think it is about luck?

“LUCK”—that unknown unpredictable phenomenon that influences the outcome of an event.

I was talking with some good friends and somehow the subject of luck came up. One friend said that he has been so lucky. At first, it seemed like a harmless comment on his gratitude. The rest of us expected to be included in his moment of warmth—how fortunate he was to have us as amazing friends. But that was not his point. 

He just leapt into this unprovoked life story of the series of “lucky” moments that made his life. He detailed the luck that impacted every juncture, milestone, achievement of his professional career. From high school to college, student experiences, job offers, mentors, and his awards were all a product of luck. He attributed his entire career success to “luck”.

Not sure what initiated this testimonial, so I chimed in, “You made your luck!” He nodded but said things were “put” in front of him that were magical and special. This happened over and over again. So he did nothing but took advantage of his good fortune.

It turned into an intense wide-ranging existential convo about the concept of luck, that included the role of GOD, the worthyiness of the person, and the sheer randomness of events.

He said, he believed in GOD but these things were not Easter eggs placed by a divine authority. But to him amazingly random resources and assistance—therefore luck.

Another friend threw down the gauntlet—“I don’t believe in luck!”, he proclaimed.

We explored the possibility of no luck. What about our births?

Privilege is the most profound form of luck. Did we choose our parents, place of birth, time, economic status, physical abilities? Of course not.

Here was a collection of friends that enjoyed many extra helpings of privilege than most humans.

Luck? Absolutely!

Definitely not our choice or action.

Let’s pretend that only luck and privilege pertain to the very beginning and then everything that follows is controlled, planned and intentional. Random events, random choices, random lives?

Luck, divine intervention, fate?

I’ll say yes to all.

My head was swirling as I began to think of the luck I have had.

Are the lucky, the ones who can see the luck?

Scientists are convinced that the amount of information we consciously perceive is extremely small compared to the amount of information received by the sense organs. We only perceive around forty bits of information from the overall flow of 11 million bits per our senses are picking up. The key word here is consciously.

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

The perceptual world we encounter – a world full of well-defined objects with various properties like shape and color – is created by the brain through a process of inference, of under-the-hood neurally-implemented probabilistic guesswork. Every experience is an interpretation, a construction. Anil Seth

In fact, we fill in blanks. We make up the story. We literally see things that are not there to simplify and speed up our certainty and comfort. We reject instantly what we don’t like or don’t know. Our brains go into a familiar loop of why we hate modern art, sushi or hockey. We stereotype, we dismiss and are all guilty of much worse.

Neuroscientists have found that the way our brains process what we see also informs our thinking. Faulty beliefs are based on habits, or even superstitions superimposing erroneous assumptions. We’re so uncomfortable with uncertainty. We tend to replace the ambiguity with something we prefer to see.

So we stare at a piece of enigmatic art and we determine within a blink of an eye whether we like it, understand it or see any value in it.

We are in such a hurry that we rarely can contemplate what we are seeing. And we miss almost everything.

Not so much what we see as what we receive. Seeing can sound like a skill that we practice. Our visual acuity. But we know our subconscious influences what we want to see and we don’t.

The 10,999,960 unidentified bits that just flew by now. 

Noise or filters or blind spots. The complete signals can’t be received.

Move from seeing to beholding: To see a situation is to catch the facts of the matter. To behold it is to witness the story. Move from just seeing the world to beholding the world.  Martin Shaw

Our signals, our opportunities, our luck is drowned out by so much noise in our minds.

The signal-to-noise ratio is defined as the ratio of the power of a signal (meaningful input) to the power of background noise (meaningless or unwanted input)

There is this amazing Japanese concept called: Yugen

Like so many words and concepts it defies translation. But loosely means the hidden beauty; mysterious profundity; elegant simplicity; the subtle unknowability of the universe.

We benignly ignore the people, the offerings, the chances, the signs and the possibilities that surround us.  

My good friend was speaking of yugen. Of his yugen. His good fortune to receive and behold the assistance and resources that were conspicuously placed in front of him along his journey. It was his humility and his recognition that he has always sought help. At the time he was just being receptive that turns into his story of “luck”.

I thought of Steve Jobs quote from his Stanford commencement. You can’t connect the dots looking forward. “You can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. I think he meant luck too.

We are too quick to make our way to what’s next and bulldoze the now.

Too preoccupied with an answer to the wrong question.

Too prideful to seek and accept the goodwill of others.

Our silly views, foolish prejudices, and absurd ideas about what our lives should be, interfere with our receiving and beholding the abundance of yugen that can be beautifully disguised as luck.

Lower the noise, quiet the mind. Stop to let life catch up with you. Pay attention. Lead with curiosity, and questions.

Open your mind and heart.

Witness and behold.

Let the hidden beauty of the world reveal our life in question.

Take the classic checker-shadow illusion by Edward Adelson. Squares A and B are the exact same shade of gray when seen side by side. But when B is cast in an apparent shadow and surrounded by apparently darker tiles, it just looks lighter. There’s nothing about our eyes that would cause this effect, The lightening of tile B is a story told by our brains.

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