Wednesday, March 29

Love, Art, & Beauty

I stood today at the end of the hallway on the 6th floor of Elliot Hall. The quaint smell of the historical site of some of the most significant findings in psychology, the anemic white curving hallway that disappeared before me, the narrow black doors falling from the ceiling to the floor, one after another, witnesses to discoveries of knowledge. I waited for my professor in a place that seemed full of some kind of magic.

Few people love their field of study the way I do.

Today, a Muslim calligrapher from China came to teach us his art. The first thing I saw about him was contentment. He had actualized a dream, though probably after sacrificing many others over time. The rest of us watched in absolute awe as his swift brush danced and almost poured Arabic and Chinese characters into what no one in the room could have imagined, let alone produced. Canvasses of emptiness turned into works of art, exuding utter beauty, in front of our very eyes.

Later, his excited fans crowded around him as he painted their requests and signed the finished products. Each was done within ten seconds, though no one could tell after their completion. Most people had their names written, or one or both of their parents' names done. I watched the whole time. For some reason, I couldn't get the scenes from Hero out of my head--where Broken Sword had devoted his life to not some kind of sand calligraphy but to understanding something higher found through it. The man asked me (through a translator) if I wanted something written, and I responded only that I would like to see his tools, if he would permit. I wished to tell him that someday, when I realized what I believe to be worth written, I would find him. But maybe that would have weirded him out. After I returned him his tools, he asked where my father was from and if I was an artist.

If I wasn't studying psychology, I'd be in architecture. Besides dance and music, my greatest passion had always been oil painting, sculpting, math, and interior design. It fit me so well--I didn't have to interact with anyone, nor did I do it to please anyone other than myself. My mom used to make me go to artschool when I lived in Bangladesh. She and her sister also learned from the same teacher. Although I hated being sent to it over weekends instead of being with my family, I can look back now and appreciate what I was taught. My art isn't any better for it--it still couldn't please my own eyes, let alone those of others--but there is wisdom that goes beneath the colors and forms before it is all put together, and I'm glad I was exposed to it, however unwillingly.


On the average afternoon a little over a decade back, you would find me listening to mixed tapes of Bryan Adams, Ace of Base, TLC, and La Bouche. I'd be sitting on the carpet with thick department store catalogues spread out, a pair of scissors in my hands, sheets of blank printer paper, and a glue stick hidden somewhere under it all. I was addicted to finding pictures of furniture in the catalogues and coordinating them to condense into rooms on the sheets of paper. I remember how weird my fifth-grade classmates thought I was when I brought in my portfolio of fifty-plus pieces for show-n-tell. Everyone else had brought in pets and beaded bracelets, pictures of family vacations, trophies from little-league tournies--normal stuff.

By the time I was a high school sophomore and had been introduced to geometry and angle properties, all my art seemed to be on gridded sheets. Floor plan after floor plan--furniture to scale, placement, and "the right shade of -- --" in my mind as well as on paper. I used to fall asleep designing and decorating my dreams before beginning the dreams themselves. I was (and still am very much) absorbed in detail. Meanwhile, I had become addicted to using Microsoft's Paint (yeah, imagine when I discovered CAD and Visio). The way my room actually looks now at my parents' house somehow came from a drawing I had made years ago of wrought-iron furniture and soft mustard pillows and sheets. But I loved most to draw the human hand--the varying shades of pixels that I'd have to test for hours before it looked like flesh.

Somewhere along the way, psychology became an artform for me. As I stood at the end of that hallway and gazed out the window overlooking the Mississippi River, it all began to occur to me.

This sister had accused me of being a very capricious, judgmental psych major a few days ago. All I had said to her was that she was the most normal person I had met--no deviance, no inconsistencies, such perseverence you don't find in youth our age. Every encounter with her over the past year I've been around her has given me the same impression--stablility. I said all this with a genuine smile--I meant it as a compliment. But she obviously didn't take it that way. And I didn't know how I could possibly explain that like most sincere psych people, I have an untamable addiction to data collection through observation. But say that even if my data amounts to some construction, be it "schizophrenia" or "conscienciousness," it is a completely different matter to say that I conclude the worth of a person through it. That's judging someone to me--defining whether or not someone is worthy of something, worth more or less than someone else, etc.

The soul was created by the Master of all architecture. To look at a person's face, to see not race but expressions driven by emotions, which, in turn, originate from experience and the unknowns we continue to research--in this lies a kind of beauty by which my eyes, my very senses, are overwhelmed. Subhan Allah.

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