“I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me…the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself…That I believe is the reason for every work of art.” +Anais Nin
Some years ago, during a particularly trying time in my earth journey, I began a series of illustrations. They didn’t begin as a series but rather an attempt to fold into a better place, a space to curl up in, away from the pain. They became my refuge as I looked forward to staining that benign surface with the productive side of my discomfort. Remember that there are always at least two sides to every story, and we get to choose. These line drawings did not alleviate the situation but it did make it more bearable. My art as therapy eventually gave birth to a number of illustrations that, by the suggestion of a friend, grew into the production of an interactive book entitled, For Coloring Girls Who Have Considered Living When They Are Enuff (shout out to Ntozake Shange). The black and white illustration is from that book. The painting came later as did a mural located on 47th street in the Bronzeville section of Chicago. It’s called E Pluribus Unum which means out of many, one.
That down time was utilized as a time of alchemy that not only served me and continues to do so, but it connected with others who wrestling with their own pain, fumbled in the rainy gray season of their own joys. So here we are, in the grip of an adversary felt around the world. This weaponized attack is a force against humanity, a giant standing in the way of our earthly sojourn. However, having learned to peek around the “problem” and glimpse the possibilities, I see something here beyond this looming dark shadow. Amidst the dynamic implications of this thing on health, economy and overall well-being there are hard truths. We are resilient, we are not alone, we are stronger working together, we will not stop…
My goal is not to wax sermonic but rather to work this thing out loud for me first. My mind turns to the biblical character David and his well-known battle with the Philistine giant, Goliath of Gath. Now doesn’t that sound like the quintessential movie villain name. In most expositions on the story we get the feeling that David went out there all alone driven by a divine directive. This fella was on purpose with a purpose. He had much more going for him than we give credit. First he knew that he had an army behind him. That can do a lot for a confidence booster. All those hands on deck backing him, ready to kick some assets. All they needed was a way to pierce through. Goliath represented a barrier, something that obscures the view, a distraction that stood in the way. David was to be the point man, the tip of the needle that pieced the skin of the Philistine stronghold first. A point man doesn’t not win the battle alone. It’s the rest of the needle and what it carries that delivers the desired result. David was willing to be that because he knew what he knew. He knew what he could do with what he had and moved on it. He could not wear another man’s armour nor bear their arms. He had some experience in overcoming obstacles with that tool. He relied on what was tried and true for him, as simple as it may have appeared. He knew what skills he had developed to overcome obstacles, and yes, this was another obstacle to be overcome. His challenges had created a resolve that resulted in a mindset that allowed him to peek around the giant, see beyond that ominous form with the knowing of what he had behind him, and realize that all he needed to do was to do what he did. When you look at them in the right light, most obstacles are merely opportunities in disguise. When you make a personal inventory, mobilize fully what you have, giants that once towered before you, have no choice but to fall. It’s divine law…or gravity, perhaps one and the same.
I recently read that The University of Cambridge temporarily closed due to the outbreak of bubonic plague in 1665. A fella by the name of Isaac Newton, having to work from home, used that time to progress calculus and come up with the theory of gravitational pull. How are we going to use this time to serve us, evening if it means to just slow down, rest up, re up, realize the sanctity of life or open that door you’ve been side glancing for years. In this climate of heaviness and uncertainty, I declare you joy and revelation. I also leave you with a question…What’s that in your hand?