The Difficulty of Locating Ease

Is it always difficult? Does it get more difficult? Or does it get any easier?

Much of the time lately, when so many of our usual escape mechanisms are denied to us, we find ourselves confronted with the difficulties of our lives and careers. We have to face ourselves more existentially than we might. Aches and pains we have to deal with ourselves rather than running to the doctor, our work and workspace is transformed in ways to which we are forced to adapt, and there is a compound sense of difficulty, in us, for us, but also all around us. The radio news and other news feeds remind us hourly of the greater difficulties currently being experienced by others in far more difficulty than ourselves. And yet, all the time that we focus on the difficulties we surely overlook the eases in our lives and our work.

Experience and repetition makes many a task easier than when we first encountered it. And we all-too-easily take for granted all the ‘labour-saving’ gadgets that make modern life easier than it was 50, 100, or 1,000 years ago. Ease is also a state, a condition (challenged by ‘dis-ease’), a state or condition of relaxation and well-being. When there are constant demands made upon us, and constant demands that we demand of ourselves, it can be nigh impossible to locate that ease. The tasks we haven’t yet completed seem more tiring and stress-inducing than those we are doing or have done. Whether we are resting, walking, eating, cooking or ‘working’ we seem to always be working and to have work on our minds.

New technologies of course brought work into the home in a new way that has changed all of our lives. The outcome of the pandemic seems to be that home-working will become more of a norm. Hence, yet again, work and difficulty come to conquer ease and well being. It wasn’t always thus however, even if we recall our youth we can reclaim the image of a less anxious way of life in which we generously awarded ourselves fun and pleasure even when we had achieved nothing in order to ‘deserve’ it. The pressures and demands of surviving, and if possible ‘succeeding’ seem to disallow all of that in later life.Nevertheless, some people are certainly better than others at achieving a ‘work/life balance’, and drawing a line between work and play.

Any artist who has made the move in their mind to see that ‘everything is art’, ‘everything can be art’, and ‘everyone is an artist’ etc. nobly liberates themselves, others, and art itself in this mental process. However, at the same time we could be said to imprison ourselves in a life and a world where there is no escape from art and therefore (for an artist) from work, from enquiry, speculations, research, sketching, making, archiving, evaluation, discussing etc.

Even this Blog is a kind of work, a kind of duty, a kind of service, a kind of labour that I have imposed on myself with a resilient weekly structure. When I recall why, at times I have suspended or re-started my Blog, and why I have often worked on something rather than let it lie, it is often because it is easier to do the work than to not do the work, because when not doing the work there s something always demanding that I do the work.

Personally, I think I am driven by insecurities, the fact that I can’t own my own home, and live in fear of falling down (see last week’s ‘Falling Up’ blog) all the time, back down to the ignominious realms I inhabited in my 20s and 30s. I must secretly believe that all my hard work will one day be justly and amply recognised and rewarded, even though there is little evidence of that to date.

There were times in my life when I had to make decisions about taking what seemed to be an easier and a more difficult path. I tended to scrutinise them at length and choose the more difficult-seeming, while never convinced that the more easy-seeming would really turn out be easier.

It’s difficult even to know how to end this week’s Blog post, so I guess I am just in a difficult time. I’ll end at least on an easier note, a little quote about painting that a friend drew my attention to yesterday. Perhaps there is some relief in this:

‘My uncle had left a paintbox in our attic. This object, which I had been forbidden to touch, fascinated me. One day I forced the lid and squeezed the tubes; blues, reds and greens squirted forth. I took a sheet of cardboard on which the vestiges of a landscape were still visible, and added a roof and trees. I was astounded. Was this painting? It was so easy!’
The French fauvist painter Othon Friesz, born 1879.


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