At lunchtime today, I had the opportunity to observe a buzzard in flight. He was gliding. His every motion was economical and precise, permitting him to dance and play upon the light breeze and thermal up drafts. His movements were graceful and refined, instinctual and poetic. The slightest change of wing or tail attitude subtly changed his trajectory in a smooth instant. While his real purpose may have been reconnaissance for prey, he didn’t seem too focussed on that task. Rather, what came across was a sense of boundless joy and ease with his medium, the air. What was astonishing to me was how effortless he made flight look, considering that his bio-machinery was powered by a small amount of slowly digesting protein. This bird seemed to be at one with his environment, yet exhibited complete mastery of the skies.
Just as he flew from my view, another flying object appeared at a distance, so at the same apparent scale as the buzzard had been, from where I was observing. It was a fixed wing aircraft, ascending in a climb from a local air field. The contrast could not have been more marked. Whereas the buzzard had appeared to be in delicate balance and harmony with the currents of air, the plane was bludgeoning its way skyward, through sheer brute force, powered by an engine barely able to contain the violence of repeated and continuous explosions. The airframe itself was rigid against the curves of the wind, determined, setting itself apart from and against nature in the most obvious and jarring way possible. Where the buzzard had seemed to dance and play on the breeze, the airframe appeared to struggle, fighting the forces of gravity in a rigid and unsympathetic way. The buzzard was taking advantage of the flow, whereas the aircraft was battling to make head way.
When you think about great artists, do you see somebody more like the buzzard or the aircraft? I think we love to watch live music, observe dance, and appreciate great art, sculpture and words used well because there is a grace, economy, delicacy and beauty about the way it happens. The artist seems to be at one with his medium, in flow, soaring effortlessly and inspiring. Contrast that to journeymen performers, with their lumpen approach to their work, who beat and batter their art into submission, by sheer force of will. I know which I prefer to witness. It’s why we talk about artists being “in full flight”.
As artists, we know that when we dance at the easel, play on our instruments, write with a flourish or forget ourselves in our creative flow, it is a sublime and transcendent experience. Our senses are heightened. We experience genuine bliss. The act of creating your art, when in this state, is its own reward.
I think we all aspire to create art like buzzards glide. The closer we get to that aspiration, the more freedom we feel, the greater our sense of attainment, the further we see over the horizon and the sunnier it is, above the clouds.