A look into our obsession with reputation and why we should act more like children.
Recently while digging deep into the internet, I found this amazing article about Ganesh Jogi on Tara Books. Sadly, the article I found was commemorating his fascinating and inspired life due to his recent death. However, what is left after his departure from this life leaves me wondering about how we control our inspirations and how we teach our children to control theirs.
Ganesh was born in Rajasthan, India into a community of people who wandered the street, singing devotional songs to the neighborhood. In return the singers were given food and shelter. These customs slowly became difficult to maintain in the twenty-first century and eventually Ganesh and his wife moved to different cities to look for employment. He eventually became a paid singer and more importantly, he also became an artist. A visual poet using simple paper and pencil to share with the world his experiences of the city. Soon the whole family was drawing or painting and art became a livelihood for them all. At age seventy-two Ganesh was awaiting the publication of his first book. Sadly, he did not live to see it come to shelves.
I was moved when I heard this story, a tale of an uneducated, simple man raised on the sustenance of song and the good will of his community who comes to find a deeply satisfying art form late in life.
Far too often in our culture we pigeon hole ourselves into what we can and cannot do. We feel nervous about stepping out of what has become our norm, even when it may not be working well for us.
However, inside each of us is a child who wishes to explore, try new things and express a unique art form, just as Ganesh did. Our judgments of looking foolish, are in themselves, foolish. We believe we have a fragile reputation to protect. Our culture reveres reputation as holy and in doing so who knows what we may be missing. What if instead, like a child, we could simply regard the next opportunity that arises, as just that, an opportunity to be looked at from all angles, to be considered and contemplated, perhaps even played with, weighed and touched. There is this tickle of curiosity in each of us, young and old. It is a simple desire to explore and our fragile reputations often stand in the way.
There is a well spring of innovation that we must share with our world in order for it to continue to thrive. We must set that example for our children. It isn’t good enough to only teach them to over control their desire to explore, to repress and temper their creative mind. We have to do better. We could be missing the very invention that could help us all in the next hundred years to live healthy, productive lives.We could be missing it simply because we choose to believe that as adults our reputations and responsibilities are more important than our child heart, our child mind. Sadly, we are teaching our children the same thing.
Ganesh had no such judgment. A man who lived like a child in his exploration of drawing and in return gave to us a beautiful book to treasure and a new way for his family, and now extended family, to make a living. All that from a person who wasn’t scared to pick up a pencil and draw. It seems silly to call him bold, as the story is so simple, but considering the mental hoops we jump through professionally in our culture, it is bold. It is radical for us to think that the answer to what we should do with our lives could be held in a pencil or in that secretly repressed desire that we think is just too dumb to try. Perhaps it isn’t. Are we willing to take the risk of dampening the lives of our children with this same panic and concern? Is that fair? How can we begin to step from the shadows of worry and see into the light of exploration?
Originally appeared at Let Children Play.
—Photo Pratham Books/Flickr