| 1026 words

Sometimes I like to see the world through the frame of video game abilities and superpowers. Like everything you learn is just one step towards getting your next new power. Like you can get the power to ride a bike or a skateboard by training hard enough. There are lots of mundane yet really cool superpowers you can get with practice, like really good balance or perfect pitch or multilingualism. You can even unlock more abstract superpowers, like good memory or resistance to cold.

So far, this is a simple reframing of something everybody knows. There's nothing surprising about knowing you can learn stuff if you practice. The cool part, however, is the fact that people might not know some things are even learnable. That it's possible for a regular human to have certain abilities, to master them through hard work and practice.

Some of these are really crazy things you'll find online. Like people who meditate enough who claim to be able to summon pure happiness on command. Or those who claim even crazier things that probably shouldn't be possible. My experience with this isn't as crazy as some of those accounts, but it's a more special than the kinds of things people normally learn. It has, in a sense, granted me with the power to vanquish boredom.

Perhaps that's being a little dramatic, but that's the general gist of what this can do. The fascinating part is, it's not really about passing the time or boredom at all but instead it's about seeing things.

A while ago I decided I wanted to learn to draw. I spent a while trying out different techniques, jumping between sketching and painting and digital art and still life. My interest for each has waxed and waned but in general it's still going strong; lately I've been enjoying watercolor and I don't expect that to go anywhere anytime soon. What I didn't expect was exactly what I'd be learning and practicing.

When you learn art it's not just the technical skills that are involved with clean linework and beautiful colors. There's also a mental aspect that's is arguably much more important. It changes the way you think about the world and the way you connect it to your hobby. As a tangent I think this is broadly true for any and all types of learning, and why I enjoy learning so much.

For art, this involved the way I look at things. A big part of learning to draw from scratch is realizing how hopelessly inept the brain is at paying attention to shapes. You can see this for yourself; try, right now, to draw your best friend's face or a piano. If you don't have any experience with this kind of stuff, I bet all kinds of subtle things were off in the drawing that are hard to fix.

This is kind of a crazy realisation; even though we're experts at knowing how things look and when they look wrong, that doesn't give us the ability to know how to recreate them. We think in concepts, but unfortunately the world is made of shapes and colors and lines which don't fit in the idea shaped slots in our brains. Nobody is born with artistic talent, good artists just know how to convert the shapes they see into concepts which are easier to remember. Just look up face guidelines for an example.

So, as a new budding artist who wanted to recreate reality I had only one option. I had to practice seeing things, really seeing them. The process of turning what you see into concepts doesn't happen automatically, and it's not easy either. You can't just look at a glass of water for 30 minutes, you have to really be thinking about what you're seeing and how you would depict certain pieces. The slight wetness on the rim, the way the light refracts, the shape of the curve.

Even the most basic concept of a 6 sided cube can take months to master. Some artists draw 100s of cubes in all different angles before they master how to use it to figure out proportions and perspective; after all, the cube is the most basic shape that can make up all others.

Ok, so where does the power come in? How do I use this knowledge to not get bored? Well, when I need to pass the time I can look at any object and think about how I would draw it. It's such an easy way to unleash my creative energies while also keeping myself busy. There's an endless amount of interesting stuff out there to draw.

This has all led to another valuable insight. I've realized that just about every single thing in the world is incredibly beautiful and detailed. It almost feels like I couldn't see things until I learned to draw. Right in front of me I can see, oh there's a pillow there on top of a couch. But now, when I'm trying to see with my eyes, there's so much more!

I see the brilliant orange pattern on the pillow, and the way that the top of it is slightly brighter because it's in the sunlight. There's a slight crease in it, but the crease is darker than the rest. It's casting a small shadow, which itself eccentuates the ripples of the fabric of the sofa. The very tip of the pillow isn't quite touching the sofa, and you can see a sliver of blue above its shadow.

I could go on like this. There is so much infinite, fractal intricacy all around us all the time. There are cathedrals everywhere for those with the eyes to see. The coolest part is that it's not just art that's like this. Every hobby and interest can lead to equally profound and spiritual insights if you have an open mind and are willing to learn.