Confessions/resolutions of the artfully impaired

by Jules Masterjohn

As the next year approaches, it is customary to reflect on our lives and the state of the world. Making a New Year’s resolution is a familiar practice for creating the change that we wish for ourselves and the culture around us. The old-school method of this annual ritual is to rid one’s life of a bad habit, like quitting something. In a less puritanical mode, there is a second style that promotes adding a new and desired behavior to our daily routines.

In the name of creativity, I’d like to suggest a possible third option for a year-end pledge: to accept the truth of who and how we are. Within this approach are a few techniques borrowed from self-help modalities. One well-used approach is the action of admitting, publicly, that one is powerless over one’s compulsions. In another recovery process, one makes amends, in writing, to those one has injured.

So, in the tradition of the season, and in honor of acceptance, I confess that I am artfully impaired, and I apologize to any and all that have been harmed by my compulsive actions.

I know that I have a problem for there are many indications. If I see a picture hanging askew on a wall, I must straighten it. Inappropriate as this may be, I just cannot help myself. I feel a little but “off” being around things that are uneven. Often I have rationalized this behavior, telling myself that we are all given a talent … something that serves the world – or a small segment of it – and mine is to make things straight. Let’s face it, there are plenty of crooked things in the world, so why not make things plumb and level where we can?

Though the past does not always predict the future, in this case, I could have seen this coming. For years, I have been known to rearrange hotel room furniture at the onset of my stay and if the pictures hadn’t been bolted to the wall, they would’ve been moved too. I’d jostle things until they “felt just right.” Teased by my intimates, I’ve believed this proclivity was due to having missed my calling as an interior designer.

Having befriended rather esoteric type folks, called “creatives,” for most of my life, these behavioral ticks just seemed normal. (I have one friend who LOVES to measure things, everything; and another who sleeps during the days so he can stay up all night tickling ivory keys with other nocturnal animals … weird, I now realize!)

So in the tradition of resolutions and guided by a “third wave” perspective about the season, I declare to accept (and maybe even revel in) my artful impairments.

The other part of my New Year’s promise is to continue to cultivate a community that honors the artfully afflicted among us. Like the kind of people who will sit around, adults and children alike, playing the game, “The Exquisite Corpse,” which was the scenario at a Solstice party last week.

Adapted from a popular European parlor game by Surrealist groups in 1925, “The Exquisite Corpse” combines spontaneity with blind collaboration. The results are random verses and images created by the collective human mind, which appealed to the Surrealists, those early revelers in unconscious mental processes.

In classic Surrealist form, it was a child among us who implored the conversing adults away from our “serious” party behavior. Scrounging up 20 writing implements and a packet of coupons that come monthly to the “Resident” (you know the ones,) we embarked on a trip into the group creative process.

Our fearless leader talked us through the guidelines of the game. First, fold the paper into three parts. On the top part, draw the head of something animal, human or imaginary. Extend the lines from the creature’s neck a bit onto the second folded part of the paper. Then pass it on, with the first drawing concealed so the person receiving the paper cannot see what was drawn.

On the second part of the paper – the middle section – draw a torso from any kind of being, extend the waistline a bit onto the top of the third section of paper, turn it over so the next in line cannot see what was previously drawn, and pass it on. This same process is used for the third and final section of paper, and the completion of an exquisite corpse.

As our group finished up, the room was hushed. One brave volunteer, a performer in the group, offered to share their collective drawing first. Upon seeing the strange and absurd creation, the gathering erupted into laughter and the tone stayed raucous as all drawings were displayed. We moved onto the literary version of the game, which proved especially silly … and enjoyable.

So, in the coming new year, I invite all to accept their individuality and let their creativity shine brightly, embracing the collective reality that we co-create daily. •