Sunday, August 13, 2017

Escaping Criticism

It's nice to be able to be who you are. To think freely. To feel freely. To form ideas and pursue goals how and when you choose. It's nice to not be fenced in; to be able to roam about life and this world as you so choose. And while this all may sound nice and fluffy but unrealistic, on some level it's both. All of us are born out of the union of a sperm and an egg. All of us are developed inside a womb. What happens after is completely out of our control. Some find themselves in a whole family. Others is a "progressive" family. Still others in a broken family or in no family at all. As childhood sets in, rules, discipline, guidance, or the lack there of along with circumstance and environment begin to shape who we become.

If you're one of the fortunate to live in a region where you have true freedom, and you were able to navigate your way out of childhood in one piece, you're now hopefully being exactly who you are. You're now going after exactly what you want in life. You're hopefully being you, and not what others might want you to be or going after the things they've forced upon you. Your steely-eyed determination leads you down paths in life you've either found or forged on your own. Your morally grounded heart is your compass, and your true passions in life are your fuel. Yes, you had some uncontrollable things happen when you were growing up that might have scarred or influenced you in some way, but those things aren't stopping your curiosity from being sated and your dreams becoming fulfilled.

Or are they? Too often, culture, society, what's "in", and many other influential messages and customs shape us. In a way, they put a frame around our lives. They limit our desires, dictate our reactions, and manipulate our emotions. Deception is all around us taking on many different forms. And what's worse, in recent years, that deception has become a force of its own. In past times, deception was an unspoken thing that sat off to the side in life like a forced boundary. People knew it was there sometimes referring to it as "the norm". Deep down, they were uneasy about how that norm limited them in some way, but since everyone else went along with it, they did too. Now, however, if you don't tow the same line as what others feel is "the norm", you get ridiculed, shamed, and even broken. You can no longer be different in the eyes of those who are different without paying some price. That's not freedom.

Escaping Criticism, by Pere Borrell del Caso (1835-1910), is an oil-on-canvas painting that was completed in 1874 in true trompe-l’oeil fashion. Trompe-l’oeil (literally meaning "deceive the eye") is an art technique that has been around for centuries where an artist attempts to create an optical illusion. In this case, a young boy in disheveled clothing braces to escape the very painting in which he was created. As he braces his foot and clutches the frame, his eyes are peeled wide and he gasps as he sees the "outside" world for the first time. Some historians believe that given del Caso's distaste for following what other experts in his field wanted to see in that day, this piece was his attempt to show them that their perspectives were robbing the world of its vitality.

The irony of Escaping Criticism is that the painting itself is deception. The story being told is that this painted boy no longer wants to remain inside the frame and is attempting to get out. The world, meanwhile, is being told by this painting to stop limiting and robbing others of their vitality. Round and round we may go, but it's still fascinating and does exactly what art is supposed to do: evoke a response. Thus, my initial pontification.

Back when we were all zygotes, our conditions for existence were exactly the same. Every single human being alive today came from the exact same beginnings as everyone else. We only ended up changing and becoming different as a result of where we existed outside the womb. If you undo all the layers of life and get to the root of life itself, you'll see we all share something very much in common. So why all the fuss now in bending ears in directions those ears may not want to go? Is it pride? Selfishness? Greed? I suppose that depends on the person. Either way, this painting is a wonderful example of living freely, breaking away from "the norm", and being who you really, truly are. You. Beautiful, unique, one-of-a-kind you. Just like everybody else.

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