While visiting my friends in Portland, Oregon, I learned an important life lesson, and that is: Sometimes life is a crazy ride of adventure, love, and relationship, others times it is just a block of wood.
A night out to the Radio Room in Portland, led the four of us to an old cigarette dispenser machine. Historically, people would put in money and get a pack of cigarettes, but now, in true Portland fashion, it has been repurposed to dispense art.
The concept is rather neat, and supports local burgeoning artists, or local school children. You never know if you are going to get a great piece of art or something that looks like a tornado drew something and called it art. There are multiple choices all labelled with a different business, category, or artist name. I went with the “Life” category, because I thought that suited me the best.
So for $5, I held my art, and anxiously waited to see what it was. My friend opened his first and it was a hand-sewn pocket-change pouch, woven together with an array of bright colorful threads. It was unique and useful. And then it was my turn, but upon examination, I realized, there was nothing to open – it was already open for it was just a block of wood with paper glued to one side that had “Life,” written on it in pencil.
To be fair, “Life” was not haphazardly drawn, it was block letters with shading. There was also a fully bloomed rose, shaded with red, and a butterfly that just emerged from a cocoon that hung from the “L” and the “I”. Even though it took me awhile to figure out that it was a cocoon, it was clear that some care and forethought went into these drawings.
As for the artist’s intentions or the overall meaning of the piece, I am not entirely sure. I don’t know exactly how “Life” ties with the rose, butterfly, and cocoon, or if there is some thematic thread that connects them. I can make many assumptions, like maybe the rose and the butterfly represent beauty, and so the theme is “life is beautiful,” or maybe the flower is wilting and the butterfly is flying away from life so it is really representing the peak of your life and hinting towards the fact nothing gets better from there on out. More likely, I am looking way too much into this.
At first I was a little disgruntled. I felt cheated. I was expecting to open up something and get some unique cool art that I would be excited to show people and tell the story about, but instead I got a block of wood with pencil drawings that lacked some clear or evident theme or meaning.
But then I started to laugh, and I realized, it was perfect! Sometimes life is getting a block of wood when you expected something else. Outcomes are never promised, and instead of spending the rest of the night bummed or putting more money into the machine for some potentially “better” art, I rejoiced in my block of wood. I’m a sap for metaphors, life quotes, and all things carpe diem, so this ended up being the perfect art for me for several reasons:
1. It reminds me to treasure the times when I don’t get a block of wood.
2. It reminds me that, no matter what I do, life still has the final say.
3. It reminds me that even if life’s outcomes are not what I originally hoped for, I can still make the best of it and they can yield rewards I would have never anticipated.
4. It didn’t matter what came out of the machine, what mattered was the time and experiences I was having with my friends.
5. And to some degree, perfection is perspective, and perspective determines the emotional outcome. In other words, you have a say in how you react in life, whether something will bring you down or up.
All this came from a block of wood, and partly my neurotic obsession with finding meaning in everything. Well done unknown artist.
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“The key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is instead of what you think it should be.” – Mandy Hale
“The happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything” – Unknown