What’s on Your Palette?

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He makes everything beautiful in its time. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

Living with an artist, has helped me understand how the colors on an artist’s palette, influence the creation of a painting.

In like fashion, the colors on our life’s palette create its narrative, or how we became who we are.  Life experiences and influences become the colors that create the painting of ourselves – beautiful or ugly, as it may be.

There is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts. – George Matthew Adams

An example of one, whose experiences and influences, created his life’s narrative, was Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery in 1838, and then became an influential voice in the abolition of slavery.

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Frederick Douglass

In its study guide for The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, written by Douglass himself, the website SparkNotes, summarizes how Douglass’ life experiences (beginning as a child) with a succession of slave masters, and with others following his escape (all of characters within these experiences, had an influence on him – both good and bad), became the palette from which his narrative [painting] was created:

“Douglass exists in the Narrative as a character in process and flux, formed and reformed by such pivotal scenes as Captain Anthony’s whipping of Aunt Hester, Hugh Auld’s insistence that Douglass not be taught to read, and Douglass’s fight with Covey. Aunt Hester’s whipping introduces Douglass to the physical and psychic cruelty of slavery. He becomes committed to literacy after Hugh Auld’s order that Sophia Auld cease teaching him [how to read]. Douglass then is reintegrated into slavery and loses his desire to learn at Thomas Auld’s and at Covey’s . Finally, Douglass reestablishes a sense of self and justice and through his fight with Covey. Douglass thus emerges as a figure formed negatively by slavery and cruelty, and positively by literacy education and a controlled but aggressive insistence on rights…Through this process, certain traits remain constant in young Douglass’s character. Though often isolated and alienated, Douglass remains largely optimistic about his fate and maintains a strong spiritual sense.”

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Perhaps in the soul, as in the soil, those growths that show the brightest colours and put forth the most overpowering smell have not always the deepest root.“, which serves to remind us, that, because our lives are in constant flux – subjected to continuing influences – our once beautiful painting, or as Lewis puts it: “...a passion for which has for years been wrapped round the whole of the heart will dry up and wither.” – can diminish over time, if not restored [rooted], or as Douglass saw himself – “a character in process and flux, formed and reformed.”

I know I’m mixing metaphors here, but hopefully you get the point.

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Painting by Cindy Cutler-Awrey

None of us share the same experiences and influences, that were on Douglass’ palette in the Nineteenth Century, but the painting (narrative) they eventually created of his life, can be glimpsed through this quote of his:

“Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference–so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.”

Douglass becomes an example where the good, pure, and holy colors on a palette, can manifest themselves in a beautiful painting of one’s life.

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So…what’s on your palette?