A Palette Is Not A Painting

If you don’t like the palette you have been given, create your own, but then make something with it.

Too often we find ourselves dissatisfied with what we have, insisting that if we only had more or if we only had something different we would be happy. The problem is that, if we actually get the thing(s) we are pining over, more often than not, we are still left dissatisfied and wanting something more or something different.

Consuming or collecting, except in specialized hobbies, are not ends in and of themselves. A musician who has mastered a multitude of skillful scales, chord changes, and riffs must, at some point, put them together if he or she is to actually have a song. A martial artist may have dozens or hundreds of techniques in his or her arsenal, but, without sparring or competition, they may never come together in a useful way. Likewise, an artist’s palette means nothing if he or she does not actually paint with it.

At some point, if we are ever to wrest satisfaction or contentment out of this life, we must take what we have and actually do something. If we want to break the cycle of emptiness, collecting and consuming simply to find more dissatisfaction, we have to stop seeking, even if for a moment, and create something. Then, if we wish to actually make a change in our life and the world around us, which, by the way is where joy and meaning are found, we must share it.

We must be prepared, however. What we make may not be good enough… yet. The secret is to keep creating and keep sharing until it is. We must become masters of our palettes, and we must be generous with our work until, one drop at a time, our unique contributions begins to change the world around us. As this takes place, we may find that it was never really about the palette anyway.

“As in life, so too it is in budo. As in budo, so too it is in life.”

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body, Severna Park’s Holistic Chamber of Commerce, and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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