Seeing What Could Be

There's a great scene in the movie Begin Again where Dan (Mark Ruffalo) hears Gretta (Kiera Knightley) singing solo with just a guitar at a bar. As the song progresses, Dan slowly sees the other instruments on the stage come alive and transform Gretta's song into something special. The rest of the bar pays little attention to the performance and the end of the song is met with a smattering of applause. Dan, however, is enthralled and immediately offers to produce her.

I really enjoyed the whole movie, though I resonated with this scene in particular. Dan doesn't just see what's there — he sees what could be. He's what Frederick Douglass calls a "picture-maker":

Poets, prophets, and reformers are all picture-makers, and this ability is the secret of their power and of their achievements. They see what ought to be by the reflection of what is, and endeavor to remove the contradiction.

The rest of the movie involves Dan and Gretta working together in order to unlock Gretta's full potential as an artist. Where others only heard background noise, Dan heard something more — and he was right.

I wonder if we can't switch ourselves to "picture-making" mode more often. We would build up instead of tear down. We would embody charity in interpretation of another's actions instead of judgement. We would make the world a better place by closing the gap between what is and what ought to be whenever the opportunity presents itself. I can see this world in my head. Can you?