Les rêveries du retraité solitaire

Les rêveries du retraité solitaire

Painting by Numbers

 

A long, long time ago, before videos games and internet, painting by numbers was a popular pastime, especially during the long winter nights when there wasn’t anything good to watch on TV. I can’t imagine anybody still doing it today, but if you go online I’m sure you’ll find old people of the generation of my parents and grandparents who are still interested in that hobby and probably new aficionados as well. To paint by numbers, you didn’t need any creativity or imagination, not even talent. It was a little bit like a puzzle but a lot easier. Each colour in your kit had a number. All you had to do was pick a colour and find all the shapes on your canvas that had the same number and paint them. The trickiest part was making sure that you would not go over. When you were finished doing the same with all the colours and shapes, you could admire the result: a painting that looked exactly like the famous masterpiece or the wonderful scenery that appeared on the box.

 

A lot of people live their entire lives as if they were painting by numbers. They do what they are expected to do when they are expected to…all the time. They walk the walk and they talk the talk without even thinking about it. From the outside, some of them may appear to be true eccentrics, but eccentricity depends on the image that one chooses to project. Just like matching the colours with the corresponding shapes when paintings by numbers, they make small and important decisions based on what seems to better fit the scenery on the box without trying to find ways to make their painting more personal and unique.

 

Very few people live their lives as if it were an original painting. Those people mix their own colours and put them wherever they want on their canvas. There are no numbers. They base their decisions and choices on values that are not part of a system. We would be inclined to think that they are mostly people who have achieved and accomplished extraordinary things. Not necessarily! Look at Donald Trump! For him, it’s all about his oversized ego and his personal image. You would expect them to be artists, philosophers and writers. Some of them are but not necessarily. A lot of them are ordinary people who come from all walks of life. My wife Maria is one of them. I know because I’ve been living with her for nearly twenty years. She makes choices and decisions that have nothing to do with how they will make her look and what people will think of her. That’s probably why she ended up with me: a short, bald and poor old man who couldn’t sing or whistle a tune to save his life.[1]

 

I think that most people, and that includes me, although they do not always live that way, end up living parts of their lives as if they were painting by numbers. We paint by numbers when we pay too much attention to popular trends and publicity. We paint by numbers when we let ourselves be influenced by peer pressure and what people think of us. We paint by numbers when we consider the values that were transmitted to us as a package, as if they were all the same colour, instead of looking at them individually to discover their own colours and shades. Sometimes we paint by numbers because we just want to cruise along and not be bothered with too much internal conflicts, insight and reflections, like when we put on the cruise control while driving on the highway. Often times, mostly at work, we become the persona we are expected to be, and that’s all right.

 

But there comes a time when we should be able to sit back and look at our lives as if it were a painting, and be able to tell when we were painting by numbers and when we were creating something original and unique. That’s what I’m trying to do by writing my little articles, and I must say that when I look back at what I have been painting so far, I’m a lot more able to tell when I was and when I was not painting by numbers.

 

 

P.-S.:  I am in no way suggesting that those who used to like, and maybe still like, to paint by numbers are not original and creative. It has nothing to do with life in general. Some painters by numbers are a lot more creative in the way they conduct their lives than others who, although more talented when it comes to painting, are often the ones who live their lives as if they were painting by numbers. I used painting by numbers as an illustration to make the point I’m trying to make clearer.



[1] I must say that when she met me I was younger and had just started going bald.



25/09/2017
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