What do you love with a wide open heart?

What do you see, hear, or experience in the world that has you connect with some biologically unidentifiable space inside that exhales… “yes!”…? For as much as we try to quantify and objectify everything, to establish a relevant hypothesis and then set up the standards upon which a theory can be proven or disproven, no one can locate that well inside that brims over with its desire to live a life of devotion to that which you love.

What you love–what you know you are devoted to–is something that is just for you. The first answers to this question of what you love might be “My children,” or “My husband/partner/friends.”

Maybe so. If it’s the type of love that I’m talking about, it’s a love that isn’t about caring for them or lifting them up, it’s about an experience of loving them that takes you so high, it lifts you up. It’s just for you. It’s okay–it’s not selfish–it’s innate to connect with something inside you that takes you this far.

It’s important to know, and seek out, what you love to the point of devotion–the thing that is love just for love. Why’s it such a big deal? Whatever that thing is, it connects you with life.

I recently visited an exhibition of the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. There’s no way to look at a retrospective of his photographs and see that he was in love with his craft–he traveled continents and his work spans decades, at a time when producing photography was more than just a little inconvenient.

But one can imagine Cartier-Bresson, walking through Paris or some village in Mexico, his travels in China shadowed by a newly-formed Communist government, his pockets bulging slightly with film. The thing he loved most took him wherever he needed to go, and it connected him with life.

“It is through living that we discover ourselves, at the same time as we discover the world around us.” –Henri Cartier-Bresson

I couldn’t look at his photographs without seeing how richly he had lived–so many of his prints seemed so alive that I could look at them and imagine how I might stand there in the midst of a fish market, watching as a woman leaned over a pile of glistening trout to hand a man his purchase. I look at that photograph and I can smell the fish, hear the animated sounds of a sunlit market in Paris. I look at his photograph of a schoolgirl in Communist China, sitting at her desk with two ink-black pigtails trailing behind her shoulders, and I can imagine her quiet studiousness, the way the room breathed obedience.

This is how it is with going completely into whatever it is that you love–it invites others to live, as well.

That’s why all of the psychobabble around artmaking becomes, in essence, drama.

  • It doesn’t matter if your fourth-grade art teacher told you that your paintings were worthless.
  • It doesn’t matter if the only time you have all day is five minutes.
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re sixty and your body is bent and crooked and you can’t imagine how you’d pull yourself into a leotard, much less complete a dance class.
  • It doesn’t matter if your sulky teenager isn’t in any frame of mind at all to receive kindness.

Nothing matters, except what you make matter. And far too many of us are pissing life away making the drama matter more than connecting to that which we love beyond reason.

Love “beyond reason.”

Love what you love because it’s your birthright and because somewhere in the world, there’s someone who would give anything to change places with you.

I’m not suggesting that you completely ignore the feelings of fear, insecurity, guilt, shame, anger, disappointment, anxiety that can come with creating something. Pushing away doesn’t make something go away.

I’m suggesting that you acknowledge that they’re there, and then you get to it–loving with singular devotion–and then you’ll see that when you tap into that, the love will get you past all of the feelings that weigh you down.

Get in there. All the way. Now.