When I look at Jack, I see a truth in him that I exploited in myself for quite sometime. At first with boundless optimism and eventually with complete, perfected laziness. That truth is, quite simply, potential. At his most basic level that is what Jack is. He is a blank canvas, for the most part, waiting for society, his fellows, his family and himself to paint whatever masterpiece God will build a frame for.
The paints are already mixed, and he’s learning to pick up the brush, but these are quite early days in the process. I see the inspiration for his inevitable work in the new things he learns and explores. I see it in his timid interactions with girls. His assumed leadership over a group of same-aged boys. I see it when he starts flirting with the beginning action of he deed he knows his parents might not approve of. So, to tirelessly continue the metaphor, where do fit into this artistic endeavor? Right now, it seems pretty cut and dry. I’m there to, based on my own instincts and experience, to decide where the line is between Jack’s “I want to do this” and my own “I know better than to let you.” That is pretty much it. Yes, of course the physical realm of protection, transportation, feeding and the varied aspects of doing what he cannot do for himself falls into place. However, in the abstract my only real control over Jack’s behavior is in providing a framework in which he can fill in the colors. Right? So, in that respect, I’m kind of tracing over the lines that are already there before he can start painting the picture. The lines were roughed out by my own upbringing, erased and erased and redone countless times. Sometimes I tend to forget how easy it is to erase and start drawing new lines, especially in the chaos of now. Usually it helps to get an extra set of eyes on the whole thing too, but more often I tend to think that my way is the best. When I’m not listening to the criticism or praise of others is when the lines come out crooked. Sure, I’m good at convincing myself they’re straight, but I know in my heart they are not. Like any piece of art, it is not what I think of it that makes it art. It’s merely it’s existence in the world. So, we go on.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing is the painting is never really finished. I would have thought mine was wrapped up and ready to be shipped until a few years ago. Then I discovered I could start again on another, more tightly pulled canvas. There is no end. Perhaps death? The final brush stroke? Maybe. Lately I’ve been coming around to thinking that death is actually when we truly start doing our best work. Where we pain in colors even the blind can see and the deaf can hear. Maybe I’m wrong, and it’s certainly no excuse to stop work on what’s in front of you now because that’s all that really matters. Where am I now? What am I doing now? How can I make this better now? Simple questions that any artist, any human being, must ask himself. Where are my feet? Where am I? What have I got? What can I do?
Well, now that I’ve driven this comparison to the ground, I think I’ll get back to teaching myself how to use watercolors. Yes, that’s where this whole thing came from. It’s just that simple. Until it’s not.