Still Life

They call it “still life” – a genre of art where the object or objects are inanimate. The artist has control over the subject and the painting, drawing, or photograph emerges from that control. It can be flowers, rocks, a glass, dishes, a pitcher — anything at all that doesn’t move. Still life art makes us look at everyday objects through a different lens. We see beauty in the ordinary. 

I listened to a talk by Pico Iyer recently, a talk called “The Art of Stillness.” Iyer is a travel writer, and he immediately notes the irony of being a travel writer who speaks on the art of being still and then wrote a book called The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere. Iyer talks about how many people who work in Silicon Valley try hard to observe an “internet sabbath.” For 24 or 48 hours each week they go completely offline to get a sense of focus and perspective, so that when they go online again, they will have the creativity to do what they are paid to do. The irony is profound. They sit in stillness in order to create programs and platforms so that we never want to go offline.

I think about still life and sabbath this morning as I sit in stillness. It’s Monday morning and the work week calls, insistent in its demands. But I am finding that sitting in stillness is not a luxury — it’s a necessity. 

I live in a city that goes to sleep in the wee hours of the morning and wakes up only a couple of hours later. Movement is constant. Even when my husband and I take our evening walk, we take it with cars zooming past us, their engines revving to make it through the light that has just turned yellow. So stillness has to be sought after; we have to long for it so much that we make it so.

I get on the subway and the world zooms past. But stillness still surrounds me and I know that in a world of movement, I must find the space to be still — to see beauty in the ordinary, to hear the voice of God.


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