The book, its cover, and slowing down

It’s an unusual art project that was recently unveiled in the small town of Cochrane, Alberta, Canada. The effort offers learning at many levels, not the least of which is that what we initially see and experience may be quite different upon closer inspection.

picture-32Take “Trust,” Cochrane’s art project, for example (shown on the right).

From a distance, the painting appears to be a young cowboy and horse providing each other comfort and support. But when you look carefully, you find not a single painting, but 216 of them, each a foot square, each a complete painting in itself.

Founding artist Lewis Lavoie calls it a mural mosaic.

He creates a master image then designates panels to numerous artists who are provided color guidelines and, perhaps, some shapes to use. But each is free to create, so long as it fits within the theme of the mural. Lavoie points out that, unlike photo mosiacs which are individual photographs arranged like pixels using a computer, mural mosaics are fully hand painted by individual artists.

To see for yourself, go here. Click on any single image to see the individual artist’s contribution to “Trust.” Creating “Trust” is an illustration of teamwork and of appreciating how an individual’s contribution can be part of a greater tapestry. It’s a lesson in diversity.

It is also an example of what a friend, his wife and I were talking about as we discussed the old admonition to not judge a book by its cover. “I heard a father give advice to his son,” my friend said, “Judge slowly.”

How easily and how often we rush to conclusions about people or events without really understanding them. In fact, the world often rewards decisions and smart conclusions that get us to the bottom line quickly. Even author Malcolm Gladwell pontificated on the topic in his best selling book, “Blink,” in which he concluded that we’re able to make decisions with far less data than we thought.

I don’t mean to argue with a noted author (he gets, after all, big bucks to discuss his blinking theory), I just suggest that we can often miss the richness and beautiful complexity of events and people by judging too quickly.

Without getting closer to “Trust,” would we have looked into the horse’s eye to find a boy who is hang gliding, or at the cowboy’s finger to see a peasant woman gathering grain? Each painting is its own message, yet each is part of the whole—much like you and me.

If we should ever doubt our significance in the scheme of things, we only need to step back to see the bigger mosaic to which we contribute. And, if we think that our significance is greater or lesser than anothers’, perhaps we should think about it from a different standpoint: which is the most important painting in the painting?

The answer is none is more important than the other. In fact, the bigger painting cannot exist without the little ones. And the little ones exist to make the whole. We’re all important, all valuable, all needed.

“Judge slowly,” the father said to his son. Judge slowly.

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