My friend Don Campbell, who is vice-president of product innovation and technology at software giant Cognos Incorporated, described this wonderful example of perspective and oneness:
My most recent experience with oneness comes from a new hobby. For years I’d wished I could draw. Unfortunately, even my “stick men” were so poorly constructed that it was hard to identify them as such. I marveled at those who had the talent to draw, when obviously, I had none. Despite the apparent hopelessness of the task, I scoured the Internet for information and checked out a backbreaking amount of books from our local library.
After pouring through both theory and practice, I took those first bold steps into an area that I felt was sure to give me grief and be littered with disappointment. I bought the necessary beginner’s supplies and started working through the exercises. I turned out to be as bad at drawing as I had feared. Luckily, this was both explainable and surmountable. It seemed that I had been looking at my subjects the wrong way—through the lens of separateness. To me, a face was made up of eyes, a nose, lips, ears, hair, and a few other details. My brain knew how to quickly substitute a known representation for these elements and plop them onto the page. It made drawing quick, but far from accurate.
You see, every face is different. Every expression is unique. From light and shadow to shape and contour, I wasn’t representing what I saw, but rather what I thought I saw. When I realized that every part of the face blended seamlessly into every other part, that the beauty and subtlety of the face was in how it all worked together, I was able to look at that face differently—as one—and draw it appropriately. There had never been anything wrong with my fingers or hands, or how they had moved to make lines on the paper. The problem had been with my eyes and my brain and how I interpreted what I saw.
After only a few short months of working with my new hobby, I am amazed at what I can now produce! While practicing my drawing skills on a recent plane ride, some of the flight attendants referred to me as an artist. In truth, I’m just an infant learning to see. And I can’t look at a face now without seeing the flow of its skin and the way the light dances, reflects, and hides along its many curves. What a beautiful sight!
As Don Campbell shows us, the practice of seeing life in separate pieces can sometimes block our path to effectiveness and fulfillment. Often, we make a breakthrough when we see the whole—the oneness of what we are observing.