Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fro Wisdom and Happy Trees

When I was a kid (and there were no Saturday morning cartoons, namely because it wasn't Saturday and I didn't have 200+ channels to choose from), I used to sometimes find myself watching "The Joy of Painting" by Bob Ross. 

For those of you who haven't had the honor of seeing the show, it was an older show (first aired in '83) that centered around painting. Bob Ross, a soft-spoken man with a soothing voice and peaceful demeanor, taught the viewer how to draw numerous landscapes over a ten-year span. 

There are a few emotions I remember feeling strongly as I watched the show, including  admiration and awe (because he was so GOOD at painting!), jealousy (again - SO GOOD at painting!), but most of all, outrage. 

Why would I be outraged, you ask? And why, especially, would I be outraged by a show that I just claimed featured a mild-mannered painter (I mean, he calls his trees "Happy Trees," fer cryin' out loud! How can a kid be outraged by that)?

Well, I'll tell you. I wasn't outraged because Bob Ross was a bad man. I wasn't outraged because I felt he was a bad painter. 

I was outraged because he painted differently than I thought he should have. 


See, bein' a young punk kid, I saw these masterpieces in the beginning of the show, and then I would watch him construct it with his paint. At first it was OK, but inevitably he'd so something unexpected (like take his paint and smear it all around the canvas until it looked like an ugly blob to me) and I'd call to the TV: "WHY??? You just ruined it! You killed the painting!" I would sit, frustrated and almost unwilling to watch the rest of the episode, because I thought the painting was irredeemable. 

But it WAS.

Every SINGLE time... EVERY time I thought a painting was damaged beyond repair by some unknown whim of the painter's, he brought it back. He added detail that I'd never even thought to use, and he breathed life into the canvas. 

I may not have known what he was doing, but I didn't have to know what he was doing. HE knew. 

And what he was doing was beautiful. 

There's a lesson in there for me. When I started out on this journey called Life, I thought everything had to be perfect from the start. I didn't want to allow myself room to make messes. I didn't want there to be any ugly blobs in my life... things that didn't make sense to me. In "The Joy of Painting," Bob Ross didn't call his screw-ups "mistakes". He called them "Happy Accidents," and that's slowly what I'm learning to do in my own life. 

I can mope and complain about the things I don't understand: the things that are unpleasant and ugly in life... or they can be Happy Accidents. I can learn from them and grow into a better person having known the lessons that they taught me. Those flaws are still waiting to be redeemed, and I know they can be. 

It turns out that a mild-mannered artist knew more about life (and painting) than I wanted to give him credit for, and I'm glad he did. :)