We Make the Rules

I was a first-year college student at the University of Utah when an art teacher introduced me to Jackson Pollock. My teacher explained that the process Pollock used for bringing paint and canvas together was shocking to the established artists of his time.

Pollock would take paint and toss and flick it onto a massive canvas, often walking around it to get the best angle.

His paintings mesmerized and intrigued me. A number of my fellow students found his painting uninspiring and sloppy. But for several months, I found myself in the library searching for every Pollock painting I could find tucked away in the school’s small art book section.

As much as I enjoyed Pollock’s finished works it was his process I was drawn to. The fact that he was doing something that hadn’t been done before, on his terms was fascinating. I suspect at least one person told him he was going about painting the wrong way and he ignored it.

How do we assess greatness without a comparative work?

As I watch my children participate in school and church, I wonder if they are being taught to a standard determined by committee? Class grades provide a clear way to determine how well my children conform.  A certain reverence, behavior, and speech are expected at church. Memorization is expected in both places.

At school, one son is penalized because the teacher can’t reach his spelling although each word is spelled correctly. Another son is asked to memorize an Article of Faith in exchange for a treat but is denied such when the teacher can’t understand a word or two.

We make the rules and you will conform. ‘Do things our way or you will be penalized’ comes through loud and clear. Don’t draw outside the lines and absolutely, no flicking paint around our canvas.

As a parent, I add another layer of expectations on each of my children. My son mows the lawn the way I was taught to mow the lawn 30 years ago. That’s how I was taught so it must be the best and only way to do it right.

To this day the way I act around my parents and siblings is more closely aligned with how they expect me to act than how I actually am.

Is it possible there’s a little Pollock in everyone, but few possess the guts to act on it?