Paint and Shoes
I know one thing for sure: just when you think you know something that is one hundred percent, absolutely true, life will show you that you really know nothing at all. If you are paying attention.
Sometimes this can be a source of depression, like what I imagine would happen to someone who devotes their life to ‘professional wrestling’ only to learn that the heroes and villains that define the sacred Friday Night Smackdown are merely fictitious. But being shown they know nothing doesn’t always make people sad. Sometimes it can actually make them happy.
At times in my life I have been convinced that things like full-circle stories and humorous irony are reserved for movies and books. They don’t exist in the real world. To be honest, it has been a source of depression in my life. If those things don’t exist in the real world, then to me, the real world sucks and I might as well just sleep all the time.
But sometimes things happen that challenge belief. One summer I painted my parent’s house the signature yellow. During the process, I got yellow paint on many things that were not the house. Most importantly, I got yellow paint on my brown shoes. It may seem trivial, but is integral to understanding the story.
All year I wore those shoes, and I always noticed the yellow spots, but I never gave them much thought. At best, it was just an insignificant aspect of my clothing, at worst a testament to my lack of skill with a paintbrush. When I started working the next summer, I switched from the brown shoes to a different pair and the yellow spots disappeared from my mind.
Then one day I was asked to do some painting. About two o’clock, I was standing on a ladder with heat radiating from the sun above and off of the cement down below. Needless to say, it was fairly miserable for the few minutes that seemed like forever. During that time I thought about how I was depressed that life was not like a story. I thought that it would be really cool if something happened to make me think about a larger narrative rather than the current moment. But that would never happen, because the larger narrative doesn’t exist.
Just as I finished that last sentence in my mind, I saw a drip form on my brush, and then fall. I watched all the way down, rotating in the air like it was its own little tiny planet, until it landed on my foot.
I couldn’t help but laugh at what I saw: I had managed to get brown paint on my yellow shoes. It doesn’t seem like much, but that is exactly the type of thing that I think makes life worth living. One summer I got yellow paint on brown shoes, and the next year I got brown paint on yellow shoes. What a neat little story.
I was starting to become convinced that life was dull and shallow, as I was looking for meaning in things that seem complex or auspicious. Just when I needed it, I was shown what I was looking for in something as simple shoes and paint. It was funny and beautiful, and something I could have easily missed had I let my confident cynicism control me. Instead I had the lesson reinforced that you should try not to be too convinced of anything, or you might miss everything else.