April 7, 2014
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“Okey, let’s play a game.” My father was making a routine attempt to alleviate the monotony of the ten minute car ride to our school. A grumbling of mild agreement wove its way through the five drowsy children in the car, giving him the liberty he needed to continue with his proposal. We all sat and watched as my father knit his brow in furious contemplation, concocting some set of ridiculous rules in his head. Nobody regarded this behaviour with any absurdity, as it was typical for him to create an array of diversions to keep us entertained and prevent fights for as long as possible. However, instead of the alphabetizing games he normally prepared for us, he began to explain a new set of rules. We were to read the license plates of the cars around us, and in doing so, try to invent the most likely or (in the case of my youngest brother’s) absurd story of the life of the driver and passengers, beginning to end. As we became better at it, the game gradually evolved and my siblings and I ended up not only weaving elaborate life stories for each character we singled out, but attempted to explain possible reasons for their personalities, from parent neglect to winning the lottery. Each person would come before us as a faceless part of the scenery, but leave as an important character in the chronicles we were rapidly producing. It was as if a sheet had been peeled away from my 8th-grade eyes, revealing the group of nondescript grey blurs I had been seeing to be a rainbow of glittering lives, as complex and motley as each of the ones sitting in the car around me.Our epic was brought to a sudden halt as my father pulled our car into the school parking lot, but the colorful mosaic that had been revealed remained with me.
However, that was as far as my revelation would bring me at that time; my life would suddenly go through a secluded and selfish change. The summer sun had melted away the eighth grade year and, in the heat of it, my parents decided to resurface old arguments- digging up buried disagreements and feeding them new animosities they had grown together until divorce was imminent. Old habits were brought back up throughout my entire household: my father smoked cigars once again, my mother returned to drinking and staying away, I resumed biting my nails, and my siblings cried and slept in my parents empty master bed as they had done when they were scared and little. It wrecked us all, my father in particular. I remember I had come home from school, and he had beckoned me to follow him into his bedroom. He closed the door and shuffled to the other side of the room, where he had guiltily pulled a black garbage bag out from his closet and opened it for me to look inside. I recoiled in horror - he had torn apart all his shirts and made them into teddy bears. Puffy eyed and quiet, he started to make an attempt at justifying his actions, but I quickly left the room with an inexplicable feeling of revulsion. That night, he solemnly bestowed each one of these grotesques to us accordingly. My siblings cried as they held their creatures, but I stared stonily ahead, holding it away from me like something filthy. After this, my positive attitude sank miserably until I finally came to a terribly selfish conclusion. Nobody understands me. It was the most ignorant aphorism I could have chosen to live by after what had been revealed to me in that car ride. By believing wholeheartedly that nobody could understand me, I was in essence placing myself superior to them, demeaning and removing their sentience. To me, nobody was enough of a complicated human being to comprehend the struggles involved in living, and people began to slide back into the scenery of my life, throwing the sheet back over the beautiful array of color I had seen and turning the variegated life back into nondescript grey blurs.
Walking through hallways of my new high school, this grey philosophy followed me around until it was unexpectedly illuminated with a swallowing vividness. It was another lecture day in the art room, and a heavy dullness hung over us that pulled the general trend of the class steadily down. Mr. Fasholz had pulled the projector screen down, the light switch was flicked down, his voice dropped an octave down, and my head was dangerously close to following suit. However, soon after the lecture had started, the direction took a swooping change upwards. The teacher had flipped slides on the screen, and the brilliant color of the new slide lit up the class with a staggering blue. Mr. Fasholz’s voice rose upliftingly in his excitement for the upcoming topic, and my head shot up in a newfound curiosity and suspense.
He clapped his hands together and jumped, a wide grin reaching up under his glasses, “Now here is the fun part.”
He paused a moment, as if awaiting an exuberant response from the class, then, getting none, pulled the cuffs on his sleeves out straight, waved his hands lightly and challenged, “What is art?”
Again, he waited, but the entire class, myself included, had assumed that this had to have been a rhetorical question, for it had appeared to be the simplest question we had been asked that day. Not swayed, though, he narrowed one eye, squinted at the entire class scrupulously through it, and then asked, “Where is art?”
After another small lapse of time, he cleared his throat, stood up straight, and rolled his eyes slightly with exasperation before beginning with, “Art is anything that has been designed by someone.”
I could hear the class unanimously thinking, “Obviously,” and, apparently, so did he because he smiled at us earnestly and continued, “Really, that’s all it is. But how far have you really thought about it? Art is all around us. I mean, every single thing in this entire room is art. It’s been designed by a person who learned how to design, and created by a craftsman who has mastered their craft.”
As if to prove his point, he started excitedly pointing to random objects in the classroom and exclaiming, “Art!” Walls, chairs, desks, backpacks, paint brushes, paint bottles: he pointed to everything.
At each object he pointed to, it felt as if he were aiming and releasing bursts of color onto it, blasting everything with shining hues. He was the Jackson Pollock of the world, slinging his palette of paints over everything lawlessly until he stood back, satisfied, to reveal a beautiful variegated canvas of wild, chaotic colors.
He looked over us all, still smiling, and my head started to whirl. The chaotic paints were too much too take in all at once, and the walls were screaming out with the new stories to tell. Millions of people were scrambling out of my surroundings, seemingly begging to share their newfound personal histories. The amount of life that was uncovered in each item in the room was astounding. Years of struggling in their schooling or mastery required by multiple people just to come up with the idea of each entity, and many more years from many more people to put the product into finality. “And what about the tools the people used to create each objects?” I thought, “Those were created by other people as well.” These new ideas were huge and bleak, and I left the classroom with a heavy heart and a headache.
The new ideology that Mr. Fasholz exposed made me feel as if I were staring into an incandescent light bulb, blinding, depressing, and unrelenting. The harsh glare of the new complexities in my environment was overwhelming, and I found myself keeping my head ducked low in an attempt to evade these beams of not only people, but every object they might have interacted with as well. I reasoned that if every person was feeling the same intricate disheartening emotions I had felt over the summer at some point in each of their lives, then I was surrounded by my own complicated feelings multiplied by almost seven billion. And each item, then, was filled with that same elaborateness, if not more. My scalp crawled with these new discoveries. Whatever object you saw was the indirect result of one or more people being born, schooled, and worked. All of the their struggles- the times they were exhausted from their schoolwork, devastated by loss, or angry at a fellow peer - took part in shaping how one object alone turned out to be. These thoughts were suffocating and depressing.
It was in rediscovering the characters in Lois Lowry’s The Giver for the near millionth time that the dismal overwhelming flood of colors and life became as manageable and beautiful as the river that flowed through the village in the pages of her book. As Jonas noted after his change in thinking from his exposure to the glare of sentience, “ he saw the familiar wide river beside the path differently. He saw all of the light and color and history it contained and carried in its slow - moving water; and he knew that there was an Elsewhere from which it came, and an Elsewhere to which it was going” (Lowry).
He, like myself, had unexpectedly and pleasantly stumbled upon the colors of life, carried away in their loveliness. A shaking new vibrance filled his life as he began to not only understand the fact that people held unique individual lives, but literally experience them daily with his mentor, the Giver. And, each day, Jonas grew in his discovery, revering in the delights of the intricacy he found in the new memories given to him. He saw how enriching his life had become with these colorful treasures compared to how it had been when he was in his simple village, peopled with sameness and uniformities incapable of being anything more complicated than scenery. This was exactly how my life had been upon first seeing the colors in the people around me - a sense of awe and delight towards the beautiful hues of intelligence made visible to me.
These intricacies in people were vibrant and lovely for both Jonas and myself, until they were unexpectedly covered in the dark shadows of struggle. Jonas had been suddenly exposed to grief with his treacherous icy sled ride, causing him to turn back to his listless village with his desire of relief of pain medication. In a similar fashion I had also backtracked with my understanding of the rainbow of life after experiencing the hurt from my summer of my parents’ unearthed disagreements, causing me to leave the elaborate people I had come to discover through denying their intelligence with my motto of, “Nobody understands me.” Both of our reactions to unhappiness had thrown the sheet back over the colorful life we had discovered.
Despite trying to hide the sentience of humanity in reaction to our hardships, the complexities could not remain unseen forever because of their astounding brightness. The discovery of life had to continue, but it would not be in the same way it had been before our trials. *Continuing with his own training after his introduction to pain, whenever Jonas gained new memories in his role of Receiver, they always included grief.* Pain and struggle became a central part in his everyday, rapidly growing discovery of life. In the same way, when I had started seeing the intricacies in each individual once again during my art class, these revelations were filled with a new knowledge of the toils and hardships that I began to see in every character around me due to my own experience with adversary during the summer of my parents’ animosities. The new vision of elaborate human life was heavy and burdensome.
However, the Giver taught Jonas that each life inside the memories was precious, regardless of the fact that they included pain, and were laded with prominent colors and details, a beautiful change to the dull flat scenery-like people that surrounded him in his village. The powerful hues of shining life were a genuine treasure, even with the seemingly overpowering burdens and conflict that were such a part of it. The Giver showed that these painful struggles were important parts to the memories, for through reflecting on them we received wisdom. “ I re-experience them again and again. It is how wisdom comes. And how we shape our future” (Lowry).
The Giver passed on to Jonas that not only do you receive wisdom from a comprehension of the sentience of others, but you also receives the ability to feel empathy and love. These emotions are only truly experienced with selflessness - which comes from abandoning the selfish ideology where individuals in an environment are only the dull scenery to your life - and opening your eyes to the vibrant motley that is individuality. How can you empathize or care about another human being without first acknowledging that they are able to be related to in the first place? How can love truly be felt without acknowledging complexities in another human? Love, without believing that person the you share the emotion with is as complicated as yourself, turns into a feeling of mere affection like one that is given to something lesser, such as an item or pet, and empathy without this same belief turns into pity as all you can do is patronize others in place of relating to and understanding the background to all of their actions. Both emotions require you to see life in the colorful way it is presented.
Realizing the Giver’s conclusions on the definition of life reorganized the way I perceived others’ elaborateness. After relearning about the complications of each human from my art class, instead of feeling wonder and delight at them the way I had when I had first found them, I felt grief as I tried to absorb the struggles each person faced as their life instead of as parts of their life. Lois Lowry showed me my mistake. With Jonas’s new memories, she illustrated that life is not made up entirely of struggle and toil, but is merely shaped by it. Therefore, I should not perceive people’s hardship at the same time as perceiving their life, but organize my thoughts in such a way that I perceive their life and then understand that it is shaped by assorted struggles. People are like Christmas lights, for they each glow with a conspicuous beautiful hue, but are only able to shine in such a way because of the dark ugly wires that supply them the power they need and connect them to the other lights around them. The wiring is necessary no matter how unbecoming, for without them the lights do not shine and become transparent and colorless. However, we should not focus too much on the wiring, for that is when we start to miss the beauty each luminous bulb possesses. Likewise, the sentience around us needs to be appreciated for the colors each one carries and not mixed up as an overwhelming messy wash of struggle and life. When we do this, people become like a rainbow: colorful, ordered, and beautiful.

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