Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Weird is better than boring

"Failure is unimportant.
It takes courage 
to make a fool of yourself."
-- Charles Chaplin

Self portrait 3-20-13

"Everybody's doing it 
so why the hell should I?"
-- Gin Wigmore, "Black Sheep"

In preschool, my favorite day was painting day. It was the day the teachers set up the big wooden easels and we put on our art smocks (our father's discarded dress shirts, hanging past our knees, buttoned up the back with the collars across our necks, sleeves rolled up). We painted with fat brushes on giant sheets of paper held up by clothespins, with primary colors mixed from fat tubs of powdered pigment.

The teachers only gave us a single color to paint with, and everybody got the same color. If it was blue paint day and you wanted to paint a dog, it had to be a blue dog. If it was red paint day and you wanted to paint a landscape, it had to be a red sky.
Red earth.
Red sun.
Red trees.
Red house.
How weird.
How wonderful.
How liberating for a child to paint something the "wrong" color and have it be perfectly alright.

Probably the one-color rule had more to do with not wasting precious paint and the ease of clean up at the end of the day than it did with unlocking our creativity. But 4-year-old me didn't care about practicality. All 4-year-old me cared about was slathering on bold strokes of beautiful paint.

It's all 45-year-old me cares about, too.

I have always told my children that weird is better than boring. I believe that deep down in my heart. It's like my personal pilot light, a little blue flame that burns fierce and hot and keeps me alive. When I die, I want it as my epitaph. Beside my name and the dates of my birth and death, I want the words: "Weird is better than boring."

I hate conformity. 
I hate "groupthink." 
I hate anything/anyone that discourages creativity, individuality, uniqueness or independent thought. Yeah, I know, hate is a strong word. But in this case it's an accurate word. 

I have been part of enough groups in my life to know that I no longer want to be bound by any mentality that operates under an "illusion of invulnerability," that becomes so inflated with it's own "rightness" that it rejects any alternative point of view as wrong -- not because the alternative point of view is necessarily incorrect, but simply because the alternative point of view is different.

Choosing to live outside the group can be risky. It can feel very lonely and vulnerable out here on the fringe, without a group huddled around you for protection. 

But it can also feel like freedom. 

Stuck in the middle of a group huddle, you see only group. You see only bland, boring, muddy brown, group-colored sameness. But on the fringe, the palette is marvelous, a dizzying array of differences. 

The brushes are fat. 
The colors are bold. 
The paper is HUGE. 

And whatever color you're painting with -- even if it's weird -- is perfectly alright.