Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The power of the arts

I hesitate to give him a name. It might be Bob, or Bill, or Doug for that matter. It might be aunt Jill, for crazies these days come in both sexes. But the Republican party has been the sanctuary for some time now for those we excuse as harmless crazed folks when they come to the dinner tables of the sane. 

Remember the folks that insisted that Obama was a secret Muslim and that when he was born in Kenya, the liberal elite had plans, even back then to plant him illegally on American soil and raise him to run for president to destroy our democracy? 

Those folks found safe harbor in the Republican party and ran for statewide offices to gain a foothold of importance in American politics. They passed around photos online of Michelle Obama as a monkey and if caught claimed it was all in jest. They took delight in using the "N" word in private company and hoped for the time when they could be public with their rude thoughts. So then they ran Trump as their chosen candidate for President and all went happily along as he talked about his rude conquests of women, made great fun of the handicapped, called those of hispanic descent rapists and hoodlums, incarcerated children on the border separating them from family while neglecting to keep track of which child was taken from which mom.

So here we are. The innocent crazies, uncle Bob or whatever, have become an angry, violent hoard of gun toting folks, nourished for years within the Republican party. Some of the saner folk are jumping ship, knowing that the trumpian assault on the US Capitol, where "patriots" threatened to hang the VP and execute leadership in both parties has been step too far. It is amazing to me to see what it can take to bring folks to their senses. Some have not yet come awake from the nightmare they hope to inflict on others.

Years ago I had an uncle who was somewhat crazed on the subject of race. The topic was an obsession for him. He would talk about his feelings whether you wanted to listen or not. But then a funny thing happened. He started woodturning. He and his wife, an artist, would come to visit me in the summers, just a quick visit, stopping by to check and see that their craftsman nephew was doing well. I would give him pieces of wood that he used as he was beginning to turn wood. We found the subjects of wood and woodworking to be a bond between us. I have some of his work. His children inherited some of mine.

Each summer my uncle and aunt would attend classes at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. When my aunt stopped going along, he would go with woodturning friends. When I taught my first adult classes in New Iberia, Louisiana, he signed up. When I saw how much Arrowmont meant to him, I began visualizing a school like that here, which has become the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

As he began getting good at his work he began selling his work in galleries. His passion led him to make more than he could sell. Every two years at our family reunions he would bring boxes and boxes of his work, asking each member of the family regardless of age to select works to take home, so the whole family has collections of his work. He wanted to offer something meaningful of himself to each and did. His dark obsessions were no longer of interest to him. He had so much more to share.

And so I offer this as a simple observation. When we craft useful beauty, we are also crafting something within ourselves. The transformation that can take place in wood (or through other crafts) is also a transformation of self.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

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