“Every human being is born with the desire to express themselves in some manner…” Michael Aschenbrenner
I’m back after a very restful week in Palm Springs. Yes, you got that right. We went to Palm Springs in the middle of August and it was hot. Not just warm, but over 100 every day. Ah, but if you ask anyone who lives there they will tell you “but it’s a dry heat.” Well dry it was indeed, but that does not make up for the “melt the sidewalk” heat. The saving grace was the swimming pool, the art museum, and the movie theater. What more could you ask for? We had no sweat exercise, education and entertainment.
One afternoon while escaping the heat, we saw a very interesting exhibit by Michael Aschenbrenner at the Palm Springs Art Museum. While viewing the exhibit, I started thinking about how our individual life experiences shape us. They form the foundation for how we think, feel, and sometimes act. As Aschenbrenner points out in his 2011 artist’s statement, we all are born with a desire to express ourselves. This expression can come in many forms. For Aschenbrenner, his experiences as a combat solder in Vietnam in the 60’s and his subsequent struggle to regain the use of his legs drove his obsession for making glass sculptures of human bones. His Damaged Bones Series has been viewed as “a shocking yet lyrical body of work” that testifies to his determination of life over death.
While we may not have as devastating experiences as Aschenbrenner, we all experience over time what I will term as “significant emotional events.” These events are ones that can change the way that we think and act as we express ourselves. We all are a product of many things. The most impactful of which are the environment in which we were raised and the value systems instilled in us by our parents. But even with this as our foundational background, it is these significant emotional events in our lives that can change us and drive our need to express ourselves.
For some, this expression can take the form of artistic endeavors, but for many it is more likely expressed in how we react to the world around us and the value we place on our day-to-day accomplishments. For example, I have virtually no artistic talent, but I express myself and achieve a great sense of accomplishment by helping others to succeed and develop positive working relationships. As I think back, the “significant emotional event” that influenced this manner of expression was likely being laid off from a position that I had thought would be my career for life. I read a recent article where the author quoted his grandfather saying “it’s better to be kind than clever.” This resonated with me as I try to understand where people are coming from when I think they are behaving badly. I try to stop and rather than immediately assume “what a jerk” I try to think “why would a reasonable rational person behave that way?”
I would encourage you to take a few moments to review those “significant emotional events” in your life and determine how they influence the way that you express yourself. Have they inspired you to express your feelings using an artistic outlet? Or have they impacted the way you interact with the world around you? In either case, reflecting on them for a few minutes hopefully will give you an insight into how you have become the person you are today.