Artistry and mastery come in many forms. Most of us know what fine art looks like, and high-end craftsmanship. We recognize the skill and talent required to be internationally competitive in, say, Olympic sports. We enjoy good cooking and fancy pastry. But there ones that are easily overlooked too, and they’re just as important. Seeing them lets us appreciate the beauty those around us create, and to appreciate the beauty that we are responsible for bringing into being even when we aren’t famous artists, champion athletes, or celebrity chefs.
Let me give you two examples from my weekend, which I spent in Fort Worth, Texas, to participate in the BERETTA speaker panel that was part of their APX A1 Carry launch at the USCCA Concealed Carry Expo (more to come from there!). To help us get ready, a duo of hair and makeup artists performed their magic on us. As I told a friend I was catching up with that morning, saying that I needed to be somewhere in time for hair and makeup has never been in my vocabulary before. As someone who wears her hair long and simply, and rarely can be bothered with any face paint at all, it was a novel experience, but as I watched Daniela and her team work, “magic” was not an understatement. She told me that their brief included making us feel as beautiful as we already were, by just punching up what was already natural. Then they did mysterious things with creams and brushes and powders and glue? What emerged was me but not me. It was a transformation I might have once dismissed, especially because it wasn’t particularly dramatic. And yet, they deftly enhanced my features and I did, in fact, feel prettier and more confident, a glamorous star, but still me. By less than an hour’s work by someone who started with applying makeup to her own face in her own mirror, who was asked by friends and family who recognized her artistry, and who now gives special moments to everyday women.
That evening, we did something entirely different and went somewhere I’ve never gone before: the rodeo. Cowtown Coliseum runs year-round and is a historic venue where rodeo stars can get their start. The arena is small, and there are no bad seats in the house. They ran all of the classic events: calf roping and bronc riding, barrel racing and bull riding. Watching the men and women out there participating in a sport that grew out of real-life ranching showed just how hard the work could be. The crowd was loudly excited, and it was impossible not to get caught up with them as competitors put their skills to the test. When the exhibitions began, though, mastery really came on display. I knew in theory that cowboys and cowgirls trick ride and swing ropes around. I was not prepared for a ten-year-old girl standing with a flag on the saddle of a horse running at full gallop, or a man twirling a lasso loop large enough to surround and move with his cantering horse. They, all of them, showcased mastery of skills that many of us don’t even think about anymore, even though they are still part of what brings food to our tables.
It’s not just about noticing the parts of life that are good, although that’s part of it because gratitude improves our daily existence. It’s also about understanding that what we do brings so much to the world while we continue to strive to perfect our arts, modest though they may seem. More than that, it’s about appreciating ourselves and the people around us for the value that we and they bring to those around us, so that we can better internalize how precious and valuable our lives are.
Ordinary people do extraordinary things every day. We know that when we talk about unexpected heroes who avert disasters and save lives. Do we also notice when they bring an extra touch of beauty to the common, or when they perform a mundane task to perfection? They might not have fame outside of their own small circles, though you wonder if they would if more people were paying attention. Do we notice when we have added those touches to our lives or someone else’s, when we have become perfectly excellent at some thing that we do even if nobody else seems to see it? I’d like to suggest that we do, and maybe start here. Tell me today about an artist or a master you’ve surprised yourself with recently, whether it’s because you finally noticed it in yourself or because you opened your eyes and found that piece of someone else. It will help all of us discover what you have found, and see more like it.