Born Bad. Really?

August 18, 2014

This past week I was asked to share my understanding of design with a group of students from the University of Tasmania’s School of Art.

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Yes, I took them into my studio and explained the importance of learning technical and basic design skills, and equally important, that underlining each work of art is a foundation of real-life experiences.

I, also (gently) impressed upon them how vital it was to be competent in articulating a philosophical discourse of the why’s and how’s of one’s personal artistic direction. Especially, if one’s artwork is nestled in environmental, social or political action.

And lastly, ….. to see the sacred in even the most mundane.

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Yes, the most mundane.

Take, for instance, the view from the latest composting toilet I’ve just built next to the tennis court. Along with some basic carpentry requirements I acquired during a four year apprenticeship in Alaska, this toilet’s placement came about only after many years of apprenticeship to the real world of leaf litter, rain dripping branches, life and death.

It sings with a beauty found in any cathedral and to sit upon this throne is a blessed sacred experience with it’s own unique “rose window” of a silver peppermint tree.

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But, truth be told, I’m more interested in the ergonomics of a person’s soul than I am of any “rules” behind composition or composting or form versus function.

What I most want to get across to any student is that we humans are not “Born Bad”; that the concept of Original Sin is but a fabrication of the western mind. It is a religious/cultural meme more destructive to world peace than any nuclear weapon.

Humans are, instead, born blest with an inherent goodness. Theologian Matthew Fox calls this our “Original Blessing”.

Coupled with an inquisitive scientific curiosity and innate artistic talents, we humans have a tremendous ability — responsibility, even — to portray the beauty of this earth and our own animal selves in such a way that peace truly does have the potential to prevail everywhere on this Earth.

A hard task, for sure. Despite what is happening in Iraq, Gaza, Ukraine or the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, we are born with the inner tools to handle the job of making the world a more peaceful, joyful place. And, handle it brilliantly.

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The best classroom, therefore, is the classroom where there is room for one’s inspired soul to fly. Where there is no limit to the number of directions towards which one could sail.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne Toft August 20, 2014 at 8:31 am

Yes – I love the thoughts of Fox’s Original Blessing! A what a great classroom you have! I long to be a student in such beauty. A place to open the mind and soul all at once. Lucky art students to spend time with you!

John Caddy August 18, 2014 at 10:26 pm

Powerful. The view from the toilet is superb; makes me want to sit in. Appreciate the nod to Fox’s Original Blessing.
From a residency of mine years gone, here’s a poem by 7 year old Tommy Johnson:

My blood makes a circle
Through my heart.
The Earth makes a circle.
We of earth are one part.

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