Ring the bells that you can ring

Ring the bells that you can ring, forget your perfect offering. I could recite this hourly, when clock bells are set to ring, and I would still forget and need the reminder an hour later. Ring the bells that you can ring. I am always reaching for some other bell. It kills me. I am always looking for the other thing, the next thing, the thing I can’t do. Forget your perfect offering. And just offer.

In college I took a great art class, or really it was just an art class with a great teacher. We did a lot of drawing and a lot of figure drawings and she quite rightly read the group early on and recognized that we weren’t ringing our bells, we were desperately looking for the perfect offering, frozen in place with our charcoal crayons.  So she created assignment after assignment to dispel us of our fear. For weeks we did our figure drawings on top of previous sketches. You can't ‘mess up’ a drawing that is, by design, already messed up. We did hours of sketches in public places in phone books. And really, there is no perfect way to sketch in a phone book, even I could admit that. We cut up our old drawings and paintings to create collages. So all our art became new art—so there were no mistakes - only future art. 

Imagine. Imagine if you thought of all your mistakes as future art? What a different experience of a day or of learning! Any bell, any ring will do because it will eventually become a song, some song, your song. Ring the bells that you can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

With thanks and credit to Leonard Cohen: Anthem, and to Colleen Hayward for a lifetime of learning. 

© Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD 2014