Beholding what’s there

Sorry, but this exercise will be only of use to those very lucky few readers out there who by the sheerest of chance have the one piece of equipment that it calls for. Those of you that have ready access to a nicely loaded garbage can-one that you can go right up to and pick up the lid and stare at the stuff inside are those who are blessed. If you’re just not that lucky, well, other opportunities that you can go exploring for are dumpsters, or alleyways strewn with refuse, or if the sense of adventure just doesn’t sweep you up, looking into the basket next to your desk will have to do. Success with this exercise really requires a very nice example of a disgusting mess, but it’ll probably work for those of you who just do not have the wherewithal to otherwise obtain the optimal tools necessary to this exercise.

Once you’ve located your treasure, give inner thanks for the universe’s providence and support for your doing this exercise that will greatly increase the amount of wonder you feel for the universe.

Now, stare at your precious find for five minutes. During this time note the following attributes of the “image” that are hitting your eyes by conferring with the “think about garbage” checklist below and carefully using it to analyze what you see and thus support your complete appreciation of your visual experience:

Composition. Consider how completely you are convinced that this mess has been merely haphazardly strewed and amassed. Note that it absolutely fools you and authentically presents itself as randomness personified, even though many highly sophisticated laws were strictly obeyed for its creation-such as the law of gravity. Consider how difficult it would be for you to have assembled this as a collage whose very intent was to fool a casual observer that indeed this was stuff that had been ordinarily tossed into this heap.

Colors. How many distinctly different hues can you see? Note at least ten. Name them.

Shapes. Look for triangles, circles, squares, lines, letters, numbers, micro-worlds, and tiny sculptures. Note at least ten of them. Look for especially unique shapes which, if isolated and converted into a “stand alone sculpture of much greater size” would be, in fact, quite lovely.

Depth. Note the overlappings, shadows, highlights, high and low contrasts, and the binocular nature of your examination process. Note how slight movements of your head reveal depths, secret nooks, and passageways. Pretend you’re an ant who’s scouting for routes to the bottom of the mess while doing air-reconnaissance. Note ten good prospects for easy travel to the bottom.

Variety of objects. Note at least ten different items. Paper, crud, wads, organic matter, “schmutz”, containers, broken artifacts, etc. Name as much as you can or at least put items in a category such as “fresh”, “rotten”, “really really rotten” or “still edible”.

Values. See the display from the point of view of a fly, a dog, a homeless person, a prehistoric cave-person suddenly transported to this future world and given this sight, and finally an archeologist from the distant future.

Energy. Feel intuitively which items have more “ooomph” more “power” more “personality”. If all the separate items were suddenly to become alive, which ones would be the “big shots” with true charisma?

Ask yourself,If I imagine that this rubbish is actually a painting that has completely fooled my eye in a museum and is an artwork which is an example of an artist’s exquisitely photo realistic style of painting, what honors would I think such an artist deserves?

Is there a way for me to see this whole world as a photo realistic painting?

Can I appreciate the basic beauty of creation?

What is the difference between the two experiences of rubbish-museum work and dirty work? Why do I emotionally react so differently to the images even though they are identical? (No fair mentioning smells.)

How is it that merely by placing my attention on something and allowing my intellect to “do its thing” that a “worthless” experience becomes so “value packed?”

If I could transform this rubbish right now into a two-dimensional painting that I could hang on my wall (and perhaps tell about this wonderful way to open one’s eyes to beauty), would I do so?

What would be the long-term payoff to doing this exercise every day for at least a few minutes? Would it ever become an automatic process?

When a person who is perfectly wise and happy meets me, what is on the checklist as I am examined? What items are on my “think about people” list?