Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Something from Nothing

Childhood stories seem to shape our little minds at that age, our imaginations run wild and we often learn a lot more then the book’s words are thought to teach. It is amazing how we remember these little stories our whole lives, we remember the colours of the photographs and the paintbrush of words that filled our minds with images.
One of my favorite childhood books is a story about a young child who is given a beautiful blanket, made of brilliant blue fabric, he used it every day until was soiled, ripped and torn, “throw it out” his mother cried, but his grandfather was an excellent tailor, who hummed and hawed, ‘and so with a snip! snip! here, and a few stitches there’ the blanket is transformed into a jacket. As time goes on, of course, the boy, growing older, wears it to rags, grandpa again fixes it up from the rags, making a vest. Every time, he makes a beautiful article of clothing, smaller and smaller, until finally, he is left with a beautiful button. The boy loses the button one day, his grandfather could not help; you can’t, he says, make “something out of nothing”.  (Something from Nothing - Phoebe Gilman)
Though Gilman makes a wonderful point of proving you can always make something beautiful out of something that was, her book sets the scene for a lesson far intriguing then baby blankets and buttons. As you close the book, the boy is empty handed, however he is well instructed of how much use you can get if you just know that if you have something, even if it is broken and torn, it can be made into something beautiful.
This story shines a light on how far a simple thing such as a baby blanket can take us, this is a lesson that seems to be long forgotten in the world of the modern first world child.
Something has come to my attention as I visited slums all over Thailand and in parts of Cambodia; the children. The children play, and the children laugh, however no where in sight was a bright red plastic race car, there were no blue balls, or pink doll houses, they were left alone for the day with nothing, and their parents had gone off to work. Without fail, out of the rubbish laying in the street, space ships came flying, swords were drawn, horses galloped, and beautiful castles and fortresses were built. Something, that was just pulled out, from nothing.
On the other side of the world, a year earlier, I had the honour of attending planning meetings for green space in Jasper, one interesting presentation that I took part in, was for a play space for children. A company was giving a proposed suggestion for how to use the space. This company didn’t use bright red slides, this company didn’t build big yellow tunnels, his was a company based on the firm belief that the best play ground that could be built, is all around us; a log in a forest can be anything, a car, a horse, a fortress, a city. The world is the foundation. Our Imagination is the façade. Nothing drilled this presentation home more then those children in the slums. Walmart does not sell imagination. There is no need for imagination when we are actually holding a gleaming silver sword. Could this be why most children barley get it out of the package before they lose interest? The work is done for them, the play is gone, it is a plastic sword, not a toy.
However, there is endless satisfaction in creation, there is no end to what you can draw on a blank slate. The children living in the slums can truly show us that. In a place with nothing at all for a child, I have never seen so many young satisfied people. The excitement of creating something from nothing is experienced every day. Everyday they sew their baby blankets into a wonderful new adventure, a new creation to get them through. This is only something, you can create, with nothing.