street art lessons

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FOUR THINGS I LEARNED FROM MANHOLE COVERS

1. BEAUTY IS RESILIENT.  The world often associates beauty with delicate things.  Beauty is seen as fragile and fleeting.  But manhole covers are made of cast iron.  We’ve walked all over them for years and years.  Yet their beautiful designs remain intact.  The world is full of problems, yet everyday the sun rises and sets - it doesn’t get more beautiful than those moments.  And everyday love performs a small miracle such as compassion.  Beauty and love are the most resilient things in life.

2. EVERYTHING HAS VALUE.  We have been taught to accept that things with a price tag have value.  New things have value. Things that give us something have value.  And, when something doesn’t meet these value criteria we discard it.  Discarding things only causes more problems - we discarded Detroit City and those who lived there.  But, if we believe that everything and everyone, simply because they exist, has value…well what a wonderful world it would be. Manhole cover designs taught me to assume that value has nothing to do with a price tag or what I thought something could offer me.  Value is what I give things and the more value I give the more I learn and grow.

3. ACCEPT YOURSELF AND DO WHAT YOU MUST.  I spent a lot of time thinking about the people who designed these works of art.  Why did they spend so much time and effort crafting designs that they knew the world would ignore and literally walk on? Was it foolish dreaming or an example of self-confidence?  I choose to believe the latter.  Doing things to seek approval from others is a race with no end.  You can never be truly satisfied if someone else holds the key to your own worth.  Lasting satisfaction only comes from accepting yourself, determining your purpose and doing what you must in order to satisfy you and no one else.  Every manhole cover is a testament to the self-assured human spirit.  Most great things are created when someone doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. 

4. LOOK DIFFERENTLY AT THE THINGS YOU NEVER SEE.  Simply put - “life” is your interaction with the things you perceive.  Living a big life doesn’t cost a lot of money - it just costs your attention.  I found more creative brilliance in the back streets of SoHo than I did in all of Los Angeles.  I am forever grateful for the opportunity to spend time looking.  When you are grateful for small things life becomes very very big.