it is what it is(n’t)

hand-drawn 3D fried egg - Sushant Rane

So that fried egg in the image above … it’s not real.

Nope. The original isn’t a photograph, either, nor was it digitally created.

In actuality, it was hand drawn – completely flat, shadows and all – by Sushant Rane, a 19-year-old kid from Mumbai.  Don’t believe me? Check out Sushant’s Instagram page HERE.  (Just scroll down and hit “Load More” to see the start of his 3D artwork, including progressive photos and videos to prove they are, in fact, flat; I hope you have a free hour or so on your hands, because you’re about to say goodbye to it.)

There’s no doubt that this young guy has an almost uncanny talent. But he also has something else: perspective. He saw what was not before it was. Then he took an ordinary, blank piece of paper and the same art supplies available to you or me, and he made them come alive in a way that fascinates and stretches the imagination. In a very real way, then, his unique perspective is changing the perspectives of every person who views his art, as well.

Oh, by the way, Sushant first put his hand to attempting 3D art like this less than a year ago.

In a very real sense, bad writers (or poor communicators in general) can make the most interesting topic feel stilted or dull, while strong writers (and communicators) can hold audiences rapt talking about nothing more than the grass. I was working with a high-school student today on understanding connotation and the power of words to create mood. We first had a short discussion about the concept of mood continuum, from negative on the left to positive on the right, with neutral dead center.  I then pointed to a simple wooden chair that sits in the corner of my living room and asked, “Is that chair positive, negative or neutral on our continuum?”

I love that look that comes over someone’s face, especially in the eyes, when real curiosity and learning are happening.  And it was happening.

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The fact is that the chair in the corner is neither positive nor negative.  It really doesn’t even stand a good chance of being neutral, due to individual perspective. Could this chair remind someone of a dear grandmother? Or might it remind them of a similar chair in which they often sat facing a wall after having been scolded as a child? Is it a reminder of simpler times gone by? And, if so, does that bring calm, nostalgia or a sense of anxiety in comparison to the less-simple realities of the present?

Words are power. How we use them can cause a neutral thing to seem positive, or a potentially positive thing to feel negative.

When I introduced you to the chair, I said it was a “simple wooden chair.”  For most people, the word “simple” would lean positive in this context. But I could just as easily have introduced it to you as “a solitary wooden chair,” in which case, without your even being conscious of it, your mental mood-continuum would have slipped left of neutral.

How about some other word choices?

a plain sturdy chair

an old wooden chair

a Shaker-style chair

a paint-stained chair

Each of these things is a true reflection of the chair. But focus and word choice change how a listener or reader feels (or even how I myself feel) about the very same chair.

In today’s talk with the aforementioned teen, I moved from the chair example to a well-known video clip from Singin’ in the Rain.  It starts with a classic kiss under an umbrella, after which Kathy Selden says to Don while unnecessarily fussing with his coat lapels, “Take care of that throat. You’re a big singing star now, remember? This California dew is just a little heavier than usual tonight.”

In fact, it’s pouring buckets. But with a kiss, a bit of attention and concern, and the right word choice – “California dew” – Don strolls off into that downpour without a care in the world, delivering one of the most famous dance scenes in movie history.

By the way, don’t try to squirm out of my examples before you allow me to get to the point, claiming, “Well, that’s all well and good; but he was an actor in a movie, not a real person like me.” Quoting from IMDb:

The “Singin’ in the Rain” [dance] number took all day to set up – and Gene Kelly was very ill (some say with a fever over 101). When it was all set up, Kelly insisted on doing a take – even though the blocking was only rudimentary (starting and ending positions only), and the director was ready to send him home. He ad-libbed most of it and it only took one take, which is what you see on film.

So there.

The central theme of The Best Advice So Far is this: “You always have a choice.” It’s inspiring to me to think about Gene Kelly making the choice to go ahead with things that day, despite being “under the weather” in more ways than one. What might that scene have turned out like if it had been choreographed and rehearsed to death, rather than expressed in the moment at the whim of a determined guy with a positive outlook?

There’s nothing inherently great about a grayish blank piece of paper, or art supplies. Come to think of it, there’s nothing awe-inspiring about a fried egg.  But Sushant sees something there. And with belief and effort, he brings something new to the world – to his world and ours.

Words don’t always wind up on a page. They aren’t always spoken. Thing is, we are talking to ourselves all the time about what we believe to be true about our lives. About circumstances. About people. About ourselves.

Stop.

Look around you. What do you see?

Do you see a nagging mound of laundry? Or do you see just how fortunate you and your family are to own so many clothing options?

Do you see political opponents? Or do you see multifaceted and interesting people who might broaden your thinking, people with whom you likely have more in common than you have at odds, if only you were to look for it?

Is the rain a miserable and depressing downpour? Or is it just a “little-heavier-than-usual California dew”?

Is your chair old and paint-stained? Or is it sturdy, simple and reliable?

Do you see an empty page or endless possibilities?

Life is what you choose to make of it. After all …

You always have a choice.

The Best Advice So Far: Do you see an empty page or endless possibilities?

The Best Advice So Far: Life is what you make of it. You ALWAYS have a choice.


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