The big picture or the finer details of life. Where should our focus lie in order to fully experience life?
Every moment offers a chance to have an entirely new perspective of life. Perspectives matter as it is the primary lens through which we view our lives. Science can enhance life, but it takes the skill of an accomplished artist to uncover its beauty. It is an individual effort. When it comes to living, no one is a professional. We are all amateurs. Some focus on the nitty-gritty of daily life; others look at the big picture and take a long view. Both are essential viewpoints, and it is easy to get lost in either one. However, the big picture of life holds the more delicate details just as a masterpiece painting is a combination of thousands of carefully applied brush strokes.
Life is a combination of individual moments
Just as brushstrokes come together as a painting, individual moments come together as life. Life cannot be enjoyed all at once. Enjoyment of life is a momentary phenomenon. It cannot be postponed or enjoyed at a later time. By not enjoying life at this moment, we don’t accrue joy which we can redeem in the future.
A painter enjoys his or her art while painting. While the rest of us enjoy that art after the painter has completed the painting. With life, it is better to enjoy it in every moment as if we are painting a masterpiece. Once our time is up, the world we leave behind will enjoy any contributions we leave behind.
Nature of true joy
Enjoyment of life is highly subjective. It does not need to burden the senses. On the contrary, happiness is more significant when we are not actively seeking it through the five sense organs. In the very act of seeking joy, it is lost.
When pleasure is pursued, it becomes momentary. When we remain receptive to life in all its forms and attributes without differentiating between likes and dislikes that the mind harbors, the natural consequence is joy. It wells up from within and is not associated with a particular lifestyle or form of living.
Uniqueness is the basis of life
Everyone approaches living differently, and there is no one way of living that is the right way. People from different parts of the world have adapted to their surroundings in their unique ways. Uniqueness is the basis of life on earth. If all life forms were the same, the planet would soon be dead.
From earthworms that keep the soil fertile, bees that pollinate flowers to humans who have the unique gift of the mind which is capable of significant achievements, all play a part in creating this biosphere in which life thrives. The mind can see the beauty of the whole. It can also see life in its smallest details. The flexibility to go from seeing the big picture to working through the finer details of life is an essential skill to develop. It makes life complete, meaningful, and productive.
Perspectives matter - Advantages of looking at the big picture
Viewed from space, the earth is exceedingly beautiful. But we often fail to see the same beauty up close on the ground. If we can keep our thoughts and awareness on the big picture of life, chances are life will no longer be looked at as a source of misery but an opportunity to uncover hidden beauty.
The big picture of life is like looking at a map of a city, to enjoy the sights of that city, we cannot do it through the map, we will have to be there in person. Both perspectives are important. Without a map, we may not be able to travel to a particular place, but without actually going there, we cannot enjoy the place.
Looking at a large painting from up close versus viewing the same picture from a distance gives very different perspectives. From a closeup view, the texture of the paint and fine details about brush strokes, whether subtle or coarse, are apparent. From a distance, we see the whole. Replacing texture is a sense of depth and dimension enhanced by colors that blend into one another.
The body and mental energy are like a canvas. Everyone from an amateur to a professional painter, may be given the same kind of canvas, similar brushes, and palette, but the final product, which is the painting will be very different. It is not just a natural talent that makes a great artist, but months and years of dedicated practice are also essential.
A good artist can pay attention to painting fine details on the canvas while carrying a mental picture of the overall painting. Similarly, how we use the faculty of the mind and the supporting foundation of the body will determine how life turns out. Great painters paint for the love of painting and as a medium of expressing their deepest feelings. They don’t paint for the sake of superficial praise.
Mind - The primary outlet for creative expression
We ought to use the gift of the mind and body for experiencing life to its fullest. The mind is the primary outlet for creative expression. Plants have vividly colored flowers, birds have their beautifully patterned feathers, and humans have thoughts.
The fragrance of a flower can only travel so far, and it fades after the flower dies. But human thought has an infinitely broader reach. Human expression through thoughts, whether in the form or a painting, musical composition, poetry, or scientific inventions will stand the test of time and long outlive the medium of expression, the individual human being.
The life that is painted on the screen of the mind differs from person to person. Many factors influence it, and most of them are externally derived. The primary influence is the environment around the mind. There are many layers to this environmental influence. The senses are the first line of defense. They filter more information than what they bring in, and of what is presented to the mind, we pay attention to only a fraction of the data.
A painter may have a can of paint of a particular color, but may only need a few drops of that color paint to create a dramatic effect on a painting. Our power of attention is like a painter’s brush. Our focus may be coarse and non-uniform, or it may be fine and precise. Sensory information is like a can of paint. To create a meaningful picture, an artist mixes small amounts of paint with deliberate and careful brush strokes. Similarly, we blend attention and sensory information to create a mental image.
Conditioning prevents us from seeing the big picture
Attention varies from moment to moment. Our interest in the incoming sensory information is not uniform. Based on our preconceived notions, information that supports our existing ideas takes precedence over other data. Attention goes towards such information of interest. Over time, a highly skewed version of life is painted on the screen of the mind. This conditioning may be reflected in every significant thought.
Unless we get out of mental conditioning, it is hard to see the big picture. We quickly see what we expect to see, but we may miss what we don’t expect to see. One way to get around mental conditioning is to drop all expectations. A universal form of conditioning is the expectation that there will be a tomorrow for us. All the planning and thinking about the future stems from this expectation, although it is prudent to plan and prepare for the future, it need not be a 100% involvement on our part. We can set aside 5-10% of our time and effort to prepare for the future. The rest of the time and energy which is freed up may be spent in the present.
The essence of the big picture of life
The present is always a work in progress. Every moment is a brush stroke that paints the image of our lives. We may have an idea of how we may like our lives to turn out, but the essence of keeping an eye on the big picture of life is accepting that nothing is certain, everything is in the moment, and enjoyment cannot be postponed or retrieved in the future. When we expect nothing from life or the future, life will always turn out to be better than expected.