I come from a family of secret artists.
My grandfather dropped out of school in 8th grade to become a steelworker. By the time I got to meet him, he was retired after a lifetime of hard work, including military service. Some of my strongest memories of him are curling up next to him while he read me the newspaper out loud, or hearing about his long walks through town.
He died when I was 10 years old, so there are many questions I never got to ask him. Like, for example, why did he paint a mural on the entire wall of the garage? Why did he paint monsters on the metal trash cans that he hauled to and from the house? I’d ask him when he became interested in painting, and what did he see in his dreams?
Since I can’t ask him, I simply wonder what would have happened if he believed he was an artist?
What else would he have created?
Given recent events, I had a memory of a school project from elementary school. It was a diorama (remember those?). If you aren’t familiar with what a diorama is, it’s a 3-D model, often made with a shoebox. I remember making a lot of these as a child.
My mom, who is quite skilled at drawing and making things look nice, helped me with this particular diorama. I remembered the image of a familiar looking character holding something tiny (but dangerous) over a wall. My mom had cut out some extra cardboard so this scene extended beyond the confines of the shoebox.
I vaguely remembered the story behind the project and did some googling to confirm that it was indeed The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss. This was the image I was thinking of:
A brief summary of the book is that there are two groups that live on opposite sides of a long wall, the Yooks and the Zooks. One side eats their bread with the butter side up and the other with the butter side down.
They can’t seem to accept each other’s differences and one side fires upon the other with a simple slingshot. This escalates, of course, with each side responding with bigger and more creative weapons. Until they both end up with one tiny weapon, that will destroy the other (and themselves).
The book offers no conclusion, and no resolution. We are left wondering what the outcome might be.
The memory of that diorama brought up a lot of thoughts for me:
Wow, we still haven’t figured this out.
Creativity can be used in negative ways.
What if my mom believed she was an artist?
Why do we feel the need to control so many things?
Yeah, I know. It’s a mixed bag.
As humans, we are being dealt yet another opportunity to reflect and assess. Many of us are probably questioning a lot of things, whether this means recalling memories, or wondering about the choices we are making in the future. It might also mean confronting the areas of our life where we are feeling conflict, whether that is internal conflict, or with another person (or people). We might be wondering what it all means, or how we can help.
I ask, just for today, what these questions might look like if you approached them like an artist harnessing the spirit of creativity, in service of the highest good.
- How might you help, or act out, creatively?
- How will you preserve your own energy for the long haul?
- What is there for you to see that you haven’t seen before?
- What aspect of you is longing to unfold?
- What does your secret artist wish to express?
You have something powerful to offer.
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