Thursday, April 19, 2007

accentuate the positive

I’m in a pretty place.

I’ll tell you how I arrived here: my first thought was, “I’m in a dilemma.” I wrote it down. So negative. It’s a dead end; the bus and the blog stop there. So I changed the word dilemma to conundrum. The mood changed instantly, but not enough. Conundrum turned to sticky. I’m stuck. But let’s be honest: It’s just not true. I’m an idealist. Plus, I couldn’t resist a little alliteration—and irony.

Sticky turned to pretty. Now I’m in a pretty place and it feels just right. But that still doesn’t resolve my, er, dilemma. In fact, it accentuates the conundrum in mind.

Something a friend said today is ringing in my ears. I’ll quote her out of context to illustrate my interpretation of her thoughtful words: “There is nothing positive or inspiring about that place. I’m sorry; you want to talk about art? That’s ignoring the current situation. You can’t ignore it; we need to be activists. We need to do something.”

My first feeling was admiration: I admire her courage and leadership.

My second feeling, almost simultaneous with the first, was guilt. It was I who brought up the clay figurines in the first place. It never occurred to me that art might be offensive—or worse, passive.

My third feeling was fear: Is she, in fact, right? Are there some circumstances so dire that art and beauty have no place? If so, I'm going about life all wrong.

From a very personal standpoint, my choice to focus on beauty and peace is not politically motivated. It’s an emotional survival tactic; it’s how I stay positive and hopeful when very horrible things occur. Things that I cannot control.

My father always said: you can’t control how other people treat you. You can’t control how other people act. In a lot of instances you can’t even control your own circumstances. The one thing you can control, however, is your reaction to them. You can choose your actions and those actions will inspire others.

Even though I said it myself just a little while ago, maybe idealist isn’t the right word. Idealist suggests a certain naiveté. It suggests that I’m choosing to ignore the world around me. It suggests that I fail as a citizen to make change happen.

But it's just not true. I’ve had the afternoon to ponder. Focusing on beauty is one thing that we don’t do enough of. I don’t want to waste my time with violence and anger and negative hype. To dwell on those things results not in resolve, but in fear, judgment, and revenge. I don’t want to give those things the time of day. I feel sad that I just spent 30 seconds of my life typing about them. So I won’t do it anymore.

What I will do is continue writing about all of the things that make this world wonderful and beautiful. That is the action I will take. I will do it, because that is my strength. It’s not passive if there is good intention behind it. Indeed, this pretty place of mine was not easy to come by. If you’ll remember, the easiest place that popped into my head was a negative one. It took some thought and some time to turn it around. But I did it. This is how I choose to run my life.

Every citizen has her method of making change happen. Writing about beauty is a solid state of activism. I certainly hope my choice and my actions will inspire others to do the same.

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