Art Not Guns

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“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” 
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

We live in a country where school shootings and mass murders have become perfectly normal. Worse, we seem at a loss to stop them. I don't know any mother who woke up on February 15th, without feeling that the world they are leaving for their children is more broken than ever. We share news articles and memes on Facebook as if that will solve the problem but the reality is we feel as helpless and divided than ever. 

Social media being what it is, my daughter knew about the shootings before I did. She was understandably horrified by the event but this was not the first mass shooting we've discussed and I fear it won't be our last. As we talked, she flipped through her snapchat stories and I struggled to gain her attention. In her young mind, mass shootings are things that happen with sad regularity. Her phone is her safety blanket,  so it didn't bother me as much as it should that she was scrolling through feeds, avoiding a more meaningful discussion to focus on her friend's selfies. 

When I was young, I relied on art to make sense of the world around me. I wrote, I painted and I drew - all as a means to escape. My sketchpad was my iPhone and I connected with my emotions through poetry.  I wasn't particularly good at any of it, but art  - both drawing and writing - became a way for me to understand my emotions in a way that helped me make sense of them.

When I rediscovered art as an adult, after working in jobs that were as devoid of creativity as one could get, I had two small children and I was overwhelmed by my own worldly cares. The simple act of taking pictures became my saving grace (and Saving Grace became the name of my portrait photography business) because it was the one thing that was solely mine.  The camera was my storytelling tool. Once I discovered it, I had a much more accessible way to capture my vision and share it in a way that was unique and beautiful. The camera ultimately helped me find meaning in the world around me by giving me a simple way to express my emotions and a voice with which to speak them.

I'm not suggesting that art will stop mass shootings but we are only doomed if we allow ourselves to be. As parents and caregivers, we should be the ones to guide our children away from these paths of destruction and self-annihilation. People are hurting and they are choosing guns at an alarming rate. Guns are extraordinarily effective tools of anger and hatred and the fact they are chosen over and over by children and young adult for both self-harm and murder, should tell us something.

Music, poetry and art are all ways to manage raw emotions and channel them into something greater. If you introduce your children to the act of creating, if you foster creativity instead of quashing it in favor of STEM, you give children a much more varied set of tools through which to manage their mental state.  Art may not be the cure to all the world's ills but it's a start. I don't know about you, but I'd rather give our teachers paintbrushes instead of guns.

Art to Heal Your Soul: 

Additional reading:

Janine DietzComment