We watch Nureyev leap. We think, “Beautiful.” Maybe we even think, “Wow.” But we probably don’t think, “That took a 70ᴼ external rotation on the sagittal axis, a shift from sensory to vestibular feedback intake of 6 millilitres of water per kilo of weight per hour, perfect polymeric contraction, 20 years of stretch of the quadriceps femurs, 6 production departments, a $5,000 costume and 2 ounces of base makeup.”*
When you’ve identified what it is you most want to do with your life, you’re not going to get away with just wearing your fanciest clothes, hairstyle and makeup, and tweaking it all in the mirror to make it happen. Well, you could but it’s probably not a great idea.
When I look at my garden, I know what I can see above ground is because of what I did below ground level, specifically shifting tons of stones, ripping up the old groundsheets, discovering what looked like a lunar landscape beneath, breaking open and turning over the clay soil with a spade, waiting for it to dry hard, breaking it down with the same spade, moving the soil around to create a sloping from house-to-gate-look, putting down new sheets, washing the stones and replacing them, deciding where to plant the shrubs, creating wells of good soil and watering for the shrub.
Of course I could have done a little more of what the previous owner had, using a thicker layer of stones to disguise the unevenness beneath and to put a couple of plants in pots and left it at that – but then the pots were stolen, anyway. I could have tweaked it in this way but it wouldn’t quite be the same.
When we put this kind of effort into our lives, we not only produce “better art” – whatever it is we want our contribution to be, but we are changed in the process, for the better, making even more possible:
‘The larger the world we live in, the larger our lives develop in response.’**
Beneath the surface is where we find our problems but it’s also where the identify the possibilities, as Vera Rubin pointed out:
“If there were no problems it wouldn’t be much fun.”^