The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: How Do You Change the World?


Recently, I saw an exhibition of paintings by a very talented artist. He clearly has a social conscience and his depictions of the pain and misery of disenfranchised and minority people are so vivid and real you can't help but feel the pain in viewing the paintings.

The artist is a warm, friendly, humble man whom I approached with a question, "does he ever paint another side of life?" He seemed interested in engaging in a conversation about it and frankly I was surprised at myself for even approaching him. I have never considered myself either knowledgeable or beyond too shy to talk about art to an artist this way. But, I felt compelled and in hindsight I know why.

As a '60's activist and an angry idealist, I would have wanted his pictures out there in the face of those whom I and he blamed for the social injustices he expressed so people would realize and wake up.

Well, decades later, I now know that doesn't work. I felt very strongly the pain of his pictures, couldn't view them for long, and also knew if he wanted people to buy them and take them home, he'd have a very small audience.

I asked if he'd consider using his brilliant artistic ability to inspire by painting beauty. I was surprised at what I was saying, because I have obviously metamorphosed from who I was in the past.

About a year ago, I decided that the 11:00 p. m. news was not a good pre-bedtime story and stopped watching it. If you look closely you will note that the "stories" are not necessarily chosen for their importance and useful information, but for entertainment and sensationalism. I can honestly say, my sense of well being has improved. When I watched the 11:00 p. m. news, my anxiety level heightened and with that I foolishly tried to begin a restful night's sleep.

As I thought about this man's art, honest as it is, it does not depict most of life. My new thoughts are that if we flood the world with goodness, inspirations, success, potential and love, my bet would be we'd get more of it. We don't get beauty by flooding the world with pain and horror. That just makes most people want to run away into denial.

The question I ask is, do you get more impetus for social change by showing people what is ugly or what is beautiful: what they want less of or more of?

As a coach I concentrate on helping my clients identify what they have that they want more of and downplay the opposite. My vote is that an atmosphere of goodness, beauty, open-mindedness, ability, talent, strengths and love will produce more of the same. Ugliness will produce more ugliness. Is this social art equivalent to the sensationalism of the 11 o'clock news?

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