There is nothing new under the sun.
T.S. Eliot is often credited with being the one who said: “Good artists borrow, great artists steal,” What he didn’t say is: that is the only one option, to take. The difference is the honesty we have with ourselves about it. Art is said to imitate life, which in turn, supposedly imitates art, an image of a man with his elbows hooked into his bent knees, his spine bent to the limit. Life is no different, as individuals we come into this world a blank canvas, and as soon as we’re dry enough to paint on, the paint comes. Acrylics, leads, watercolors, charcoals, dyes, pigments, graphite, and just for fun some sparkle glitter. One of our few, compared to the animal kingdom’s examples, built in instincts is to take in the social do’s and don’t’s. This is for survival. A human that couldn’t learn to be domesticated in modern America would spend his life rotting in a Home for Troubled Boys with lots of trees and then Pelican Bay’s quarter million acres with not so many trees to see.
Taking and stealing our colors from the world around us is inherent to the being of humanity. We start early, when do we finish? When isthis canvas complete? Perhaps complete is the wrong word, giving rise to the feeling of masterful completion when in actuality I mean “done being painted on”, ending with the masterpiece or the monstrosity of confusion and shattered dreams, partially forgotten, and never realized. The answer I am able to give after two decades of painting and being painted, I have to say: never. Those sad people who look for their place, their group, their clique, and never find, may “reinvent” themselves by trying to add what they might think of “broad strokes”, the structure of a painting, that which gives it support. Let us take our typical teenager, filled with angst, and longing for something better, lost in a sea of high schoolers who he or she believes that every single one of them feels that he or she belongs. The reality is, that to a larger or lesser degree, all of their friends, enemies, acquaintance, strangers, and everyone else in their peer group feel that same longing. The difference from one person to the next is some will grow out of it shortly, and some may never grow out of it. Back to our specimen, let us say he is a freshmen, graduated from that travesty of a social cauldron we call “middle school”, where the awkward transition from the comparatively harmonious social environment to the tumultuous, hormone polluted social environment of high school takes place. He desires not to stand out, but only to belong. To stand out… That’s too much. Too much! Those who stand out risk the most at being cut down? Right? He’s not athletic, sports is out. He’s doesn’t feel smart, chess club, math club, Latin club, all out. He could be a toady for the popular kids, hoping one day to be elevated himself. Ah, who comes this way. The so called “outcasts”. Dark clothes, he can do. Dark music, he can do. Be angry and complain all day? Definitely. Our focus has now shed his broad strokes of the average white male American child for the terrifying pierced, angst-ridden, back-talking teenager. America’s poster child turned to America’s most wanted poster. He is now feared, he feels strong in his pack. He is haunted with the reality that he’s still alone. Meaningful connection has not happened yet. His subconscious “reinvention” has not helped. Sitting with his chosen herd at lunch and walking in the tiled halls of high school hasn’t helped. And he knows this. Subconsciously, of course. It was close but no cigar.
Reinvention may come again. In youth, polarization is common. Our boy will likely repent from his wicked ways and find Jesus. Salvation of his soul and salvation of loneness come both with one attempt. Dark strokes of paint have been replaced by lighter shades of a different and new hope.
Salvation from his feelings of social disconnection will come one of three ways, and likely no other ways. The first is luck. Attachment to a kin-soul that brings fulfillment and endearment. With the right hand pick up the ticket, with the left hand a quarter, scratch. The second, he will realize that his ideas of what he was looking for was irrational, or the standard was set too high, and he will resolve himself to mediocrity. The third? Realize two things, this first is he aught to take control of his reinvention. Close the founts of paint he allows to be dumped on his canvas by anything and everything around him. Take, borrow, and steal on a conscious level. The second realization is that what he had been using as “broad strokes”, were not that at all. Dressing different, speaking different, acting different, broad strokes? No. Truly, the fine lines that add shading or depth to the meat of a painting. Reality check brings less wasted time and effort.
What can we learn from our teenager, who’s story is likely a partial autobiography of any American? Know now that you are not a unique snowflake. Frankenstein’s monster has more in common with you than a snowflake. Sewn together pieces of other humans. Pieced in place and tricked into thinking that they should all work together. Know that you will never ever ever be unique. Know that this isn’t a negative thing. It’s a positive thing. This lends freedom.
Now, you know you have something in common with everyone else. We all belong to the same incestuous compost heap of unoriginality.