THE CANVAS OF LIFE
“The Canvas of Life is as dull or as colourful as your paint it…Your job may not be the best in the world but stop for a second to consider, what does it do for you? Could it finance a trip to Auschwitz?”
Last week I read about how a UK tourist company, lastnightoffreedom.co.uk, specialises in ‘stag do’ packages to Auschwitz, that’s right, the concentration camp in Poland. For a reported £115 you can spend a memorable experience as a young (or mature) stag touring the place where millions were either put to death or died of malnutrition, exhaustion or exposure. And, for a few pennies more, you can get the comprehensive package which includes a guided tour not of the facility of course but of the local bars for an out-of-this-country pub crawl.
Since the article was published it appears that lastnightoffreedom may have reconsidered its ill-conceived offering whilst chillisauce.co.uk is still promoting it.
What on earth….?
Of course, these companies are selling the activities under the guise that they are educational. Yep, I’ve lost count of the amount of dos I’ve attended and or heard of where the stag and his mates all skip the pubs and clubs and pile down the local museums and other cultural establishments instead. And there’s me thinking that stag dos were all about mind obliteration rather than educational enlightenment.
I guess Blackpool, London, Dublin are all starting to get a bit old. Emptying a keg of booze down your throat in one country is pretty much going to blend into the next unless you throw in a macabre ghost tour of locations steeped in cruelty and mass genocide.
The march of time is relentless for all of us, it tramples over our youth without mercy and most, at one stage or another in life, will pause to consider our own mortality (See midlife crisis). It’s then that we start to contemplate what we have and have not done, things we should and should not have said, things we still want or must do before we kick the proverbial bucket. These things, on the scale of exhilaration can be as simple as enjoying a portion of proverbial fish and chips whilst watching the sun slide under the horizon or as extreme as bungee jumping off a bridge in some far flung corner of the world. How far we turn that dial of exhilaration tends to be subject to our age; the young will crank it up, the ‘mature’ will dial it down whilst the middle age just want to smash it. And it’s the appetite of those searching for something out of the ordinary that many companies, such as those mentioned above, are looking to cater for.
Some of us ride the rollercoaster of life as if it were a bucking bronco whilst others are content to live theirs to the trait of a goldfish. An adventurous existence certainly appears glamorous and it’s often coveted, but it’s seldom realised.
Christmas 2013 will see the release of Ben Stiller’s first outing as actor and director in THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY. Ben plays the role of a timid and sad photo editor at LIFE magazine who often retreats into elaborate fantasies where he becomes an assertive heroic figure that jumps onto helicopters, climbs mountains, combats enemies, and travels the globe faster than it would take Phileas Fogg to tie his shoe laces. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was first published in 1939 as a short novel by James Thurber, it was then turned into a film in the forties, then a musical and has now been remade by Stiller for the new generation.
And there’s one simple reason why this notable story has transcended time and that’s the fact that it’s a story about the majority of us. Each and every person who leads what most would class as an ‘average’ existence, often stuck in a job that we don’t particularly like yet imprisoned there by life’s necessities without much hope of parole or escape.
According to Deloitte’s Shift Index survey, 80% of us hate our jobs. That is 80% of the workforce choose a salary over passion. It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs but a reality nonetheless that many grin and bear on a daily basis. Yet there are some, the few, who believe they are destined for greater things, they believe their life to be more than the dog’s dinner served them by a tired and unimaginative destiny. These, the few, make a decision to change their life from a monochromatic formulaic syndrome to a Technicolor dream of risk and reward. These intrepid life explorers have no time for the shadow humans who spend their lives resenting the fun of others and dragging their sorry souls through a quagmire of self-pity whilst camping out around a raging bonfire of disgruntlement fed by the kindling of their discontent.
The canvas of life is hung out before us from the moment we draw our first breath. The virginal white landscape of peaks and valleys is but ours for the painting. And whilst we may not be able to control each and every brushstroke
we do control the colours these strokes leave on our soul, on our personalities, on our perspective and on our outlook. Be it the colour of red love, the grey sadness, the black sorrow, green envy, blue creativity, yellow happiness, and a myriad of other colours including the one you’d care to attribute to fear.
Last week I spoke to a young man who had just launched a brand new company. I asked him if he was excited, “more like terrified!” was his reply. And quite rightly so, there’s a conglomeration of statistics out there that tell us just how many start-up businesses will fail in their first year. This young man, still in his twenties, had read them all. (Probably not the most inspiring move).
Yet, he dared to dream.
In our new world of economic uncertainty even the bravest risk takers are stepping back from the abyss of the unknown and investing more in certainty. Hollywood movie studios demonstrate this well by their incessant trawling of the comic book barrel as well as their investing in scripts based on tried and tested books whilst their Television counterparts make stars out of talentless reality TV caricatures.
It takes guts to put life as you know it on the line and take a risk. Some of the greatest business pioneers have endured some of their biggest failures before making it big.
Marilyn Monroe was famously told that she ‘was not pretty or talented enough to be an actress’. Soichiro Honda was passed over for an Engineering job at Toyota and was penniless before he started designing motorcycles and became a billionaire. Vera Wang first failed as an Olympic skater, she then became an editor, was passed over for an editor in chief position and started designing wedding gowns. She now heads a multi billion dollar industry. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper because he apparently “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”. Sir James Dyson went through 5,126 failed prototypes and 15 years of savings. His name is now one of the bestselling vacuum brands in the world. Stephen King was so frustrated with Carrie, his first novel, that he threw it in the trash. His wife found the manuscript. To date, he has written over 30 novels and sold over 350 million books. And who can forget the story of novelist JK Rowling who was penniless and raising a daughter on social security before Harry Potter was unleashed on the world. She’s now the first person to become a billionaire through writing.
And on that note, let’s move on swiftly.
The canvas of life is as colourful or as dull as we paint it. “Shit happens” to all of us, indiscriminately. And there’s no doubt that sometimes it seems to happen more to us than it does to next person and, sometimes, there’s actually truth to that; some people appear to have it better but then others have it worse. Ultimately, we don’t really know everything that happens in the lives of others and nor should it be that important. What is important are the things to happen to us, how we choose to react to them, and the colours that are left behind.
Your job may not be the best in the world but stop for a second to consider, what does it do for you? Why do you allow yourself to be imprisoned in your job? Well, there are a multitude of reasons.
Let’s take a look.
Does it pay the bills? Yes. Does it put a roof over your head? Yes. Does it feed you and your family? Yes. Does it clothe your children? Yes. Does it fund stag or hen night excursions? Yes. Well, in that case, the hideous role you perform on a daily basis is actually a wondrous and colourful oasis of security. A sparkling pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of life. Granted, you may not feel that you are accomplishing much and you may not be getting a great sense of job satisfaction. But this is when your job doesn’t become you but more the means to an end, a tool, the fuel that enables you to travel a road of things that make you happy, the things that add colour to the canvass of your life, that beautiful canvass that you’re going to gaze back on in so many years and think, “I did that.”
At least until you are brave enough to venture into the unknown, take a risk, like the aforementioned life adventurers, to abandon the status quo, the complacent, the comfortable and pursue whichever lofty dream your mind has created for you, a dream free from responsibility, risk or hurt.
We can’t always control the things that happen to us, any less than we can control the things that happen to the ones we love. The latter often being the most trying of the two because our instinct is to protect our loved ones, to shield them from the greys and the blacks of life but the reality is, we can’t. This decision is often taken out of our hands and we have no choice but to stand by and watch them make their own decisions, to forge their own relationships, to paint their own canvass even if we believe we know better. All we can do is be there when we’re needed and do what we have to do restart the journey the best way experience has taught us how.
Black things will happen. They are part of living and are ultimately the things that add contrast to life’s ultimate masterpiece providing they are put into perspective with colour. And if colour isn’t forthcoming then create it the best way you can! This is one of the fundamental principles behind all of our Casa Bella events; to generate special and colourful memories for all who attend.
Did you know that painters will often paint their subject in vibrant, bright colour and their background in darker tones? Why do you think that is?
What colour will you paint your day?
‘Only boring people get bored’
THIS ARTICLE IS NOW FEATURED IN COMING UP FOR AIR – AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON