Wednesday, August 8, 2012

liberal arts, flies & honey

I wouldn't say I "chose" to go to a liberal arts college. 

Sure, the college I chose was a liberal arts college, but I didn't choose it for that reason.  It wasn't until I was in my third or fourth year that I began to realize the benefit of all those crazy classes they demanded that I take. 

Like most college kids, I paid no attention to the classes I needed until the week of advising.  This is when you spend about 10 minutes before your advising appointment searching for the course catalog and jotting down what you hope to take as you walk to your advisor's office.  And back in my day these were real print publications that required a sprint to an academic building just to get your hands on one. 

This approach had me signed up for a theater class.  My roommate and I had the same major and by this time we had discovered it was much easier to just take most of the same classes together.  He said we needed theater.  I wrote down theater.  Apparently everyone else wrote down theater too so instead of the lower level course to meet our liberal arts requirement, we ended up getting in a higher level theater course.  This was many years ago so you've forgive me if I can't remember the exact title of the course or the professor's name.  The class was mostly about stage production, lighting and that sort of thing.  The professor had dark hair, a thick mustache and I'm pretty sure he wore a Member's Only jacket all semester.  This was long after Member's Only jackets were cool. 

But this class and this guy taught me something that has served me very well in the years since.  No, it was not about theater.  Lord help me if I ever have to light or produce a play.  No, this guy was one of the older teachers who offered his knowledge and experience but he also sprinkled in his one-liners and words of wisdom.  And by "sprinkled in" I mean this accounted for 90% of the words that came from his mouth.  There were loads of things about Murphy's Law and lots of sayings that were apparently from the world of theater.  My roommate and I would listen mostly just to pick out the goofiest phrase and then make jokes about it until the next class.  I promise I've matured since then.  A little.

One day in class he was at the head of the long table throwing lots of words at us.  I was working on solving some design problems in my sketchbook when something he said disrupted my bliss.  He was telling some kind of story from his theater days and he called some guy a very funny bad name.  I laughed with the class, but before I could get back into my sketchbook world he ended his story by saying "...because you catch more flies with honey.  Remember that."  All the theater people wrote quickly in their notebooks.  My roommate and I were the only non-theater majors in the class and we also may have made jokes about how everyone but us wrote down all the weird things he said. 

The whole phrase is "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar".  It was such an imagery rich phrase that I just sat there imagining the flies and trying to figure out what the honey would be held in.  As I kept thinking about the phrase I realized this was somehow a very logical and very appropriate universal truth.  I sat in amazement at the realization that this guy was actually very wise and that he may have even used his story to get the attention of two goofball art kids so he could teach them something.  

Of course my parents taught me to be nice to people.  I lived a good portion of my life thinking that this was just good common sense.  People will naturally want to work with you and treat you nice when you treat them nice.  Sometime over the last couple of decades though, this common sense stopped revealing itself to everyone.  There are people who make a lot of noise and try to complain to get their way.  And maybe this works, but the people on the other end of this must be filled with dread at the thought of ever having to deal with them again.  And who wants to go through life being vinegar?  Everyone can smell them from miles away.

Honey has been good to me in my creative endeavors.  I figure a gallery has thousands of artists to choose from and they're all pretty good.  If the decision comes down to which personality they'd rather work with on a project.....they usually go with honey.

My students laugh when I tell them that the things they learn in my classes will help them with relationships, debating and being a good citizen.  But there's a lot of truth in that.

What good is a liberal arts education?  That theater class went a long way in making me a better human being and more successful in the business of art.


Nora said...

I actually had some similar experiences from my theater teacher. Crazy woman but funny as hell. On my bad pain days when I couldn't physically participate in the day's activities I was asked to write about the activities in my class journal, but it became much more than that. I sat back and did psychoanalysis on my classmates and how some of them surprised me because the persona they displayed as their normal "self" was not who they were at all, for example, one girl always acted like a majorly perky ditzy dumb blond, but when I sat back and watched her one day I saw that it was all a cover and she was actually very intelligent and very good at acting. Being as empathic as I am I always figured I knew what everyone was like right off the bat, but I realized in this case that since her ditziness was off putting to me that I totally missed the real girl.

It was nice for me to have someone to share my psychoanalysis with b/c I usually had only myself and my thoughts b/c not many people really like to get into that type of conversation, but my professor did. She would respond honestly to my entries, and I think she even enjoyed reading them.

In all honesty, and I'm not stroking your ego, there were plenty of things that you said to me or others, especially in 3D I, that I could pull out the real truth that you had cleverly hidden in your statements. I caught your encouragement too, and your nudging that I should be working in 3D with my spacial and tactile abilities, not in 2D w/ my Photo major.

And don't even get me started on talking to Martyka! I never had a single class with him, but he and I would talk a good bit, and we both knew I saw beyond his tough guy, out to hurt feelings, and soul crusher reputation that he had been given by students over the years. He was always throwing out bits of wisdom that were easy to miss by the casual observer.

Same kind of thing with Seth Rouser. He's a really nice guy regardless of his "reputation" and I think I always get along better with people like the three of you because I don't just take the face value that others have given you.

I really do miss seeing and talking to you two. I still sometimes think, "Man, I could really use some Doug or Martyka insight about now..." I've gotten a lot of valuable mentoring and life lessons from you and Martyka and they won't be forgotten.

e-sketchbook said...

Nora, good to hear from you again. You are very kind....but I always thought my reputation was that of a kind and gentle soul!

Any time you are deluded enough to think you need my insight, send me an email. One of the perks of being a former student is that you get to be bothered by me for life.

Nora said...

I always thought the bugging went the other way around! ;p LOL I never had problems with you, but I'm also one of those people who is blunt and doesn't sugar coat everything, so we're kinda together in that boat. I kept your grade comments. And my topographical paper project still holds its place of honor on top of my dresser, lol.