Probably the best advice I ever received was during my junior year of high school. I was in an art class, working on my final project, a painting. The entire class had attempted to build to that moment; the students were to use the techniques learned and practiced from the previous lessons to create a portrait of expression using one of the most respected mediums in two-dimensional human creation.
I interpreted that lesson as, “I’m gonna draw a picture of a seagull drinking coffee and then paint it. It will be awesome.” Since I was so excited for the project, I finished it quickly. I showed my instructor. She stared it for a moment in silence and then mumbled, “You need to paint over that and do something else.” I was shocked.
I begged for an explanation; why did my seagull deserve such a fate? She explained, “That’s just ridiculous, Matthew. Look at it. Seagulls don’t even have legs!” I looked at the picture and tried to understand her criticism. My seagull did, as she claimed, have legs. But didn’t most seagulls have legs? This rebuttal fell to uninterested ears as my teacher simply said, “Just go redo it.” I didn’t, I just took my seagull portrait home and wondered why its legs bothered her so much.
After years of meditating on it, I finally figured it out; my art teacher had simply convinced herself that something wasn’t real to make her point. What an amazing strategy that is for a peaceful life. If you don’t like something, simply say it doesn’t exist!
I’ve been practicing this lifestyle ever since. Tons of stuff I don’t like no longer exists now. To name just a few: badgers, coke bottles, floppy discs, Eastern European history, the movie Ransom starring Mel Gibson, books, light dimmers, bass drums, and my left pinky toe (it’s incredibly racist and I’m not fond of that).
One thing that does exist, though: seagull legs.
Thank you, public education, for you showed me so much by teaching me so little.