09 April 2008

Painting pretty pictures

I really don't like the last few days of the school year. They're about as useless as the first few days of school but for different reasons. In my Writing about Literature class right now, we're watching presentations on papers for the next two class periods. I wouldn't go but our professor has given us high-school-ish sheets to fill out in order to rate the presenters. If this wasn't such a load of busy work I'd be more ok with it. I mean, sure, you want people to come. It wouldn't be fair for the people going last not to have an audience at all. But our teacher gives out grades without taking into consideration the views of the class. That's her prerogative, but I still resent the busy work.

Ok. Part of this is that I resent her as well. She flat out refuses to give me an A because she knows it's driving me crazy. She gave me an A- on my last presentation for heaven knows what reason (she only marked off two minor things out of about twenty different categories), and she gave Ms. "I'm going to rock around on my feet and keep my hands in my pockets and make no interesting claims" an A, and Ms. "I enjoy wandering through - oh look a butterfly - I don't know what I'm doing here" an A as well. So irritating.

Rant over. My point is entirely different. But I think I'm allowed to rant because no one really reads this thing anyway, right? Of course right.

Someone said something today in their presentation that really bothered me. Not in an "I'm offended, I'm going to resent you for the rest of my life" kind of way, more in a "no! That's not right," kind of way. She is writing her paper on My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. Asher, the main character, is a painter and a Jew. I won't go into all the details, you can (and should) read the book for yourself. One of the main conflicts in the book sits in what art is supposed to accomplish and whether it should be beautiful or not. Asher's mother Rivkeh tells him over and over again to paint something beautiful. "Paint pretty pictures, Asher." Over and over again she begs for him to paint something lovely.

But Asher feels like painting something that isn't necessarily beautiful. At least not by his mother's definition. He draws Stalin in a coffin. He paints his mother on a cross. He paints his mythic ancestor.

The only time he draws something "beautiful" - a brother and sister walking down the road together - he feels as though he's drawn a lie. He hates it.

The commentary that the presenter gave is that Asher can paint "pretty pictures" like his mother wants him to or he can paint the world realistically.

I've written on this before. Last Christmas after the "Scottish episode that shall not be named" (aka. the Robin Hood finale) I wrote about how I don't think that we should consider reality to be bad things. Now I want to expand on that.

I think about my reality. My reality starts between about seven-thirty and nine-thirty every day. I wake up and put on a robe over my pajamas and eat some cereal for breakfast. I watch the news for a while. The news isn't always positive. Rarely positive, really - I suppose this is why so many people associate "reality" with wars and starvation and crime rates. I get ready for school or work and walk to campus. On days when I go to work first I walk along a brick path south of campus that is lined with trees. I love this part of my walk. It is beautiful and gives me a chance to think and enjoy the view of the mountains without the general rush to get to classes. I go to my classes and spend time some of my friends. At night I do some homework, talk to my family, eat dinner and read for a while. It really isn't so bad. It's really great, actually.

People tell me that after I leave school I'll enter the "real world". So what is that supposed to mean? Well, it means I have to get a job. Yes. I understand that, thank you very much. It means I have to be responsible for myself and my finances. Well. . . ok. I was expecting that. Do I think it will be easy? No. It's a different challenge. But I don't expect to be unhappy. I don't expect everything to be to my liking, but I don't expect things to be horrible either. I want to be optimistic about my life. I want to make my world worth living in.

In other words, enduring to the end isn't suffering valiantly. Men are supposed to have joy, yes? "For God so loved the world." God loved the world. Not just the people in it, but the rest of it too.

Not that I promote a completely Pollyana-ish view on the world. There's something to be said for recognizing that the world isn't always fair or kind. I worry about people, for example, who think that BYU is a completely safe place. You have to be careful who you trust everywhere. That being said, I think you can be realistic about your life and be happy about it as well.

I need to refine these thoughts so that the next time I meet someone who says this, I can tell them to be a little more optimistic.

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