Years ago I completed a seminar series. Although there were a lot of different takes on what the series was actually about or designed to do, I clearly saw its focus being on communication; and in order to be a more effective communicator, you'd need to understand how it is that you communicate. Are you yawning already? I know… seminars are like that.
Anyway, one of the exercises we did to help identify how we operate within our community was a drawing. Not a Rembrandt drawing or even a Picasso – no, these were more like Pictionary sketches. Many drew ponds, some drew the ocean. In these pictures, the world the communicator lived in was the body of water and they, along with everyone they interacted with, were fish. There were work fish, friend fish, fish from religious institutions, some school fish (no pun), kid fish, sports fish, family fish – you get it, right? They were all represented by fish swimming in the same water. In a similar vein, there was one in which the 'world' was a marina and all the people boats. I also remember a galaxy (obviously drawn by a broad thinker) where all the people were stars.
I drew an artist's palette. My palette held lots of colorful paint blobs. Like the fish, I had blue friends, green work associates, purple church folk, yellow family members and so on. Here's what I found interesting. I didn't include myself on the palette. There wasn't a red paint blob for me – there wasn't any paint blob for me. I was the paint brush beside the palette. I found this fascinating because this is exactly how I tend to operate in life. Dab a little here, dab a little there, then sit off to the side – by myself.
I spend a lot of time alone – now more than ever. I go hiking alone (although I interact with all the regulars I see up there), I work alone (however I'm on the phone quite a bit interacting with my customers) and I live alone (but I interact heavily with my surrounding family. Side note: Often when leaving my brother's house, as I announce my departure he counters with, "Alright, you stayed your hour.") The simple fact is this, I am not uncomfortable by myself – and that's what was so psychologically revealing about my drawing. I do realize that this sets me apart from many.
Another thing they shared with us was a story (I think this is actually a book) about 'the dash.' I've written about this before, but simply put, the dash represents our entire lives. If you look at a headstone you'll see the name of the deceased along with two dates: born this day – died this day. Whoever that person was, whatever they did and whatever impact their life had on this world, it's all right there in that tiny dash.
I think the real beauty in life – although this can be bittersweet – is that we don't really know the full impact of our dashes. I think of my paintbrush – the tip of which that has touched so many lives. And I think of Roy Lichtenstein, too. For those not familiar with this artist, some of his works were giant graphic novel type frames, painted pixel by pixel, where if you're right up against it, all you'd see are circles and dots, but step back a few feet, and then you see the actual picture – and no longer see the dots. I think this is what it's like for life's big picture.
It's like Clarence (Oddbody, AS2) told George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, "Each man's life touches so many other lives." And this is the bittersweet part. We just don't know what mark we're leaving on others, but I know this much, it should be positive.
So, what kind of dots are you making? What do your brushstrokes say about you?