I once read a book called Art & Fear. It was required reading for me at the time, and it came as a very pleasant surprise that it was, indeed, interesting. It’s nice when things you have to do turn out to be things you’d like to do anyway.
Not like the Western Literature class I took at the University of the Arts. Western Literature, guys. Dickens and the Bronte sisters, I thought. That’ll be sweet. Maybe Shakespeare, too.
Well, it was further West than that. It was all the way over to Greece. Maybe it’s my terrible geography skills, but that came as a surprise. And not a pleasant one this time. I tried my very best to get through Euripides, I really did. But it was hard, hard work. Nothing I would be doing, anyway. He could write a whole lot of words and they’d all be stuck together like glue, those words. So dense, that you couldn’t see through the verbiage to even understand what it was he was trying to say. The point. The picture was difficult to grasp.
Ha, which might be how you’re feeling right now.
But that was my first C on a paper in my whole scholastic career. I went up to my professor with tears in my eyes–the only dancer among a sea of WRITING MAJORS (hello! That should have been my first clue!)–and asked him how I could improve my grades.
God bless that man, he told me. He broke it down. And I eventually pulled off an A. But I also almost pulled out my hair while wading through Greek literature. It’s much less Hollywood than the movies would have you believe, guys. Much less Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom and much more pages and pages of one sidetracked instance in a battle. And once you get through that, there is no real reward because YOU ARE STILL READING ABOUT THAT SAME BATTLE.
But all this to say, by comparison, the book Art & Fear was a gift from God. It was relevant and digestible and I totally knew what the author was saying. Imagine that!
One thing that author–who is a fine artist, and also teaches fine art at a university–related a conversation with his little four year old daughter. He was getting ready to leave for work in the morning, and she asked him where he was going.
“I have to go teach big kids how to draw,” he answered, simply.
She looked at him like he had told her the most shocking news ever. Her eyes got wide with surprise as she said, “You mean they FORGOT?!”
I love that.
I love how children live life so honestly. They don’t create nearly as many brick walls in their minds as we do. They haven’t mastered the art of conjuring up every excuse in the book for why it is they cannot do so-and-so. They draw and paint and dance and sing and discover everything and anything with abandon.
They can hardly imagine a world where there are rules why they can’t do these things.
Sometimes I need to remember that, yes, we should and will always be growing and learning and bettering our respective crafts–but the very best way to do this is by, well, DOING it. You won’t win any medals for the things you sat back and didn’t do.
On the other hand, if you do them–then you will grow. And you be honest and at one with your life, since you will be doing exactly what is in your heart to do, anyway.
And if you did forget how to draw–well, it’s not too late. You can start now. You can start doing just about anything now.
Though, if you’re thinking about starting a Western Literature class with a bunch of writing majors, you should realize that you will not be studying Dickens.