Friday, March 2, 2012

Only God can make a Tree - or a Pencil

"I am a lead pencil- the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write. Writing is both my vocation and avocation: that's all I do."
Scratch that, let me set this pencil aside and get serious!
Well, I am serious. In our house, and even in my room no one dares touch my pens and pencils and worse off books. Whenever it comes to my stationery- it's hands off, take my shoes, bags, clothes, just take them but don't you dare touch my stationery. I am always ready to tackle anyone who crosses the line. That was before I read "Anything Peaceful" by Leonard E.  Read.
He writes an essay "Only God can make a tree- or a pencil" that tells of the importance of Art being free, untamed and uninhibited. But, what is most important is the pencil.Now, I cherish my stationery because I know how helpful they are at getting down what's on my mind. I can express how I feel most effectively through pen and paper, or a rough sketch than I can by speaking. Cartoonist, Hugh MacLeod in Ignore Everybody and 39 other keys to Creativity , says "Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accordingly."
I have heard of various singers, saying their producers or managers got songs for them and got them working on it. I have heard various people say, 'My bosses want something else' after slaving on a design or piece of article. I know of one character in a book, who simply could not be what others wanted him to be. Howard Roark in The Fountainhead was an Architect who refused to replicate designs that society demanded of him-to know a building had a character and integrity.
There's more to Art- than structure or rules. Mark Twain, a Writer, once said "know all the rules, then break them." It's freedom, to do something different especially when your whole being tells you to.
It got me riled up about the pencil and the tree. Leonard had seen this as early as the 18th Century. He had seen what it means for Art to be at the mercy of money and manipulation.
For look at it this way, if the tree is a hallmark of God's creation and awe, then so is the pencil-which comes from the tree. But other than that, take a look at your pencil, if you have one. Imagine how long it took to be what it is, the cutting down of a tree that has lived over a decade, the sawing, trimming, the transportation to a factory, being passed through machines, rubber, lead...all of it. Ask yourself, how many years does it take to make a pencil? Include the years it takes for a tree to mature too.
Then come to Art, any thing that's created-how long and how much dedication doe it take an artist?
For, before something comes to be there was a thought- a drive, and time-and most of all loyalty.

How can one change the world if one identifies oneself with everybody?