Sarah O’Connor 479 words
This I Believe
I believe that art is a sixth sense along with seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching. It is another channel for perceiving the world. Through art the world becomes more vivid, more alive. For me, this means writing.
Only when I am writing about my introductory composition class, for example, can I unlock the zip disk and appreciate each element – the room with its deep windows and white walls; the black-haired student from Kazakhstan who is so serious about academics sitting next to the American student who arrives with deep circles under his eyes each morning and promptly falls asleep; the football player for whom football was a lifeline from a drug-riddled inner city Philadelphia neighborhood; the stutterer whose circuitous route from a violent childhood in the Congo to South Africa to Canada finally landed him at this university; the girl with the luminous eyes who never speaks but composes such lyrical essays. As I write about this class, I taste the ingredients that give it its special flavor – from passivity and fear of failure to willingness to try and will to succeed. This is the curious concoction I can sample only as I take pen and paper to it.
I used to think that the need to write was a deficit in my genetic make-up. What is wrong with me? Why don’t others have this need that will not go away? Lately I see it as an add-on, like the boy who hears music in his head all day long and must compose, or the idiot savant who can compute any number problem instantly, or even the crafter who is obsessed with glue and popsicle sticks.
To give expression to the world is to begin to understand it, to bring order out of chaos.
The world around me is not changed when I write, but I am changed. Before I write, I see only a bud on a branch. As I write, that bud flowers.
Back in the four walls and cubed windows, the class searches for pens and rips paper out of notebooks. “Close your eyes,” I instruct. “Imagine your favorite place. What does it look like, smell like? What sounds do you hear? Who is there and what is happening? Take a few minutes to think, then start writing.” “Scup. It is a place I can only visit in my dreams now. It was a ramshackle fisherman’s cottage in Nantucket where my family spent every summer. To get there, we had to drive down a narrow dirt road that ended abruptly at the ocean.” The silent girl’s pen is racing now. The students are no longer captives of the white walls. Art has opened its lazy eye, showing them that the five senses are not the only means we have to apprehend this startling and wondrous world.
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