We often think of growth as the process of keeping knowledge and experience preserved under glass somewhere inside our being. I think we all do it from time to time because we view knowledge and experience as a finite mound to be finished through consumption, when perhaps it's more like trying to drink a waterfall. It just keeps coming and every drop is different than the last.
So it would be wise for us to allow room for change, lest we become hypocrites in years to come.
You see, I was a bit shocked recently when I received my alumni newsletter from Iowa State University's College of Design. The facility feature was a particularly difficult professor I once had whom I recall had a particular distain for digital media — such as working with a digital drawing tablet (like the one which produces the cartoons on page four from time to time) or digital sculpting software. I have very few happy memories in that studio, so I actually reached out to some of my former classmates to be sure my memories were hadn't been tainted by more than a decade of deciding he was wrong. But I remembered correctly. At least two of my classmates remembered him telling us digital work wasn't art and was a disconnected approach used by those with insufficient skill.
The irony was I was told at the time ISU's College of Design at the time was starting to put a heavier emphasis on digital use, because the university needed to make it's design program distinct from those of the other state universities in order to sit well with the regents.
But the newsletter informed me this professorial rival of the digital art world now uses a digital tablet himself, has been recognized for his work in digital media and hopes to one day tap the artistic potential of augmented reality.
"I'm fuming right now," a classmate told me after seeing the newsletter.
And that was my initial reaction as well. Honestly, the man no more taught us to draw than a cattleman teaches a heifer to walk by applying the prod, all the while trying to convince us digital art was next to worthless. Yet that attitude apparently changed a few years after I finished the course. One of my classmates, though he had dropped the professor's class early on, contacted a more recent student and forwarded her comments to me. She said, in her experience, digital media was always valued and welcomed by the professor.
This painted quite a different picture of the professor I knew, so a second thought occurred to me.
While, he may have ultimately been wrong in his perception of the digital potential, he had grown and developed as an artist, finding value in what he once deemed worthless. We, as a people, should be so inclined. Every one of us is well aware of the divisions in our society — locally, nationally and globally. We build walls and draw hard lines in stone rather than sand to keep our egos and our perceptions intact.
But stones don't grow. Humans must.
Be it slowly or be it rapidly, we all must grow. That's a part of life. Time changes all things but, if we allow ourselves to become stoic statues of ill-chosen character, time will surely crumble us to dust as it slowly passes us by year after year. The world doesn't need more concrete heroes. It needs beating hearts and thoughtful minds — who prune away what is a detriment and nurture what is fruitful. It needs people who know who they are, yet understand those whom they are not. It doesn't need leaders who sway in every breeze, but it needs people who are willing to build sturdy bridges. And it most certainly doesn't need stone that can be dashed to pieces when pushed too far.
It needs flesh and blood that can heal and atone for past transgressions.