Making Much of Too Many
by Lynn Bridge
Over the weekend, I was talking to a friend who mothers an elementary school-aged daughter. The child is the only offspring of two talented parents, and it would be hard to imagine a child with better upbringing on all fronts. Short of the earth coming unhinged and the poles migrating overnight, this daughter will continue to develop her multitude of talents into her mature years, and be a valued member of society. So, what was the line of conversation with her mother? How to say ‘no’ to good things. Which good things to say ‘no’ to. Which good things to have the child choose, and which good things to reserve for parents’ choice.
Often, choices are presented as a battle between good and evil. But, I have found that those choices are not the ones which bother me the most in the way I live my life.
No, the choices which have caused me the most trouble, both for myself, and in raising my children, have been those choices between good and good. T-ball or violin? Dinner at home with the family, or dinner in the car on the way to ballet class? Graduate school for me, or driving kids to lessons?
Do any of those sound like bad choices to you? They didn’t to me, and so I have a problem making decisions.
The results of our choices sometimes don’t show up for years, and so we can’t judge what is an ultimate good until it is really too late to reverse the decision, if it is found to have been inadequate. Anecdotal evidence from other families does not help, because if numbers count, I can array just as many stories of how well the children turned out in ‘over-committed’ families as I can stories about how children thrived in less-intense environments.
I can’t help but notice that many of our paradigms about opportunity are limned in sayings from the past- the distant past- when young people were fortunate to have one career opportunity in a lifetime come knocking at the door.
This is 2012 in the United States of America, and who really believes that ‘Opportunity knocks but once’? However, this notion of scarcity is wired into my brain, so that of course I want to learn 5 languages to commune with the stranger while housing the homeless, nursing the sick, comforting the broken-hearted, mentoring the young, and pursuing a 60-hour-a-week career in my calling. And, have friends and a marriage. Why not?
Do you see where I am going with this? I am realizing that these mosaic plates I can’t stop making are really about the exquisite agony of choosing amid abundance. Someone has called my work ‘mosaic porn’, a reflection, I think, of the lusciousness of the glass colors and textures, and the blatant sensuality of the food my mosaics suggest.
I suspect that my art leaves open the questions of ‘How much is too much?’, and ‘How many are too many?’. Like the Charles Dickens and Jane Austen novels which I admire, a plethora of characters pop up and must be kept track of somehow, whether embedded as stories-within-stories, or supports to the whole.
My work is the product of a mind choosing one good over another in real-time, as cement is hardening, the kiln is firing, the weather is changing. Each tessera is considered and placed, sometimes in a rhythm, often in brief fits and starts as old patterns come to an end and new ones have not yet come into view. As the cement is hardening.
Even choosing from the myriad photos I make of each piece of art is a trial. Choosing this particular photo took no brains at all, however, since an insect settled itself on the lightest green tessera sticking up in the foreground, making this view unique.