This week marks the beginning of my sixth year in this space. I would have bet against myself making it this far back in 2012, but thanks in large part to the support of my readers, I’ll keep plugging away.
Some people don’t like my column. Or as one reader told me once, “I don’t like what you write about most weeks. But I keep reading for those times that I do.” Thank you! That’s perseverance, to read something you might only like one out of five times! I appreciate all my readers and love to get feedback. And because my topics cover a broad range, I don’t expect everyone to love my writing every week. Some of you have read all 260 columns before this and some of you might be relatively new. I hope you find something worth reading!
I was really thinking about this during a recent family vacation to Milwaukee. We visited the Milwaukee Art Museum, a fantastic stop in a very nice town. I was staring at a canvas with various shades of black painted in squares. I tilted my head this way and that, trying to figure out why this was in a museum. Next I saw some paintings that, I kid you not, looked just like finger paintings my kids did when they were three or four.
Michelle was an art major in college, so I asked her how this was considered great art. Her response was, “Well, it’s hanging on a wall in a museum, so somebody must like it.” Yep, that’s about right. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. I started to look at more of the work in that sense. It might not have been my cup of tea – I like historical paintings with realistic figures – but somebody indeed thought some of the other pieces were great art.
So can I start making this a part of a life philosophy? I need to step back and look at all of life’s “art” in that vein. Even if I don’t like a movie, a show, or even another person, I should understand that someone does. I’m not fond of many of the people I see in the news these days, but they have people who love them and think they’re wonderful.
I’ve said that some people don’t like my writing, and that’s okay. I get too opinionated or I write about sports too much or whatever, but it is what it is. I also have people who don’t like the way that I teach or the way that I coach or the way that I announce or the way that I officiate/umpire. I’m sure there are those who just don’t like me, period.
Some of my 8th graders read the novel Tex, by S. E. Hinton, and a major theme of the book is the idea of hate. What does it mean to really, truly hate someone? Students reflect on this along with the characters throughout the novel and write about it at the end. I’m always impressed by their grasp that the word hate is very strong and extremely overused. We dislike many things, but hate should only be used in the extreme.
As I’ve thought about looking at things in a different light, I’ve contemplated how to handle those who express their displeasure at any of the list of things that garner opinions. What is it, exactly, that you feel needs to change about my teaching? Why do you disagree with my coaching philosophy? How is being more excited for the home team a bad thing when I’m at the microphone? At what age do you think I should start throwing a flag for holding? How do you view my strike zone today?
It’s easy for people to say they don’t like something. I didn’t like some of those paintings at the museum. Why didn’t I like them? What is it that I do like? If I start asking those questions when faced with criticism, maybe we can work through what is being viewed as bad and how that beauty can bloom.
As I write this, I have come to realize that many things I do in life are often target areas for receiving grief. Teachers give too much homework, coaches don’t win enough, announcers get out of control, umps and refs are blind. (As Leon Schoenrock likes to jab when I’m umpiring, “I’ve seen better eyes on a potato,” all in good fun, of course. I think.)
There are some things that should be black and white though. I discovered, while driving through a construction zone in Milwaukee, that apparently the speed limit signs in Wisconsin are a mere suggestion. If you don’t like them, you can just go as fast as you want. I was more than content to trundle along at 55 while cars whizzed by me in the orange zone going at least 70. I guess it’s a beautiful thing unless the state patrol is waiting for you. The cherries and berries were never something I’ve found particularly enchanting.
We all have things we like and dislike. As we begin another school year, we’ll all have students who will like certain classes and teachers and won’t like others. Students like some of their classmates and want nothing to do with other people. But what we have to keep recognizing is that tastes change. The person or class or coach or food that you don’t like today might be someone or something you grow to love and respect someday. We need to keep an open mind in life.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll visit Milwaukee again someday and really like those finger paintings.
Word of the Week: This week’s word is deterge, which means to wash or cleanse, as in, “She so disliked the movie that she hoped to deterge it from her memory.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!