Over the table in my studio hangs a hand-lettered sign. Sometimes it hangs up there for a day, sometimes for a month. It’s not an affirmation, it’s a question. It helps me think while I work. My studio is my Place Without Noise–no music, no TV, just silence. The question right over my head is sort of mental chewing gum.
The most recent question is “How Will You Heal the World?” No doubt the world needs healing–Ferguson, Missouri is just one town in a big country with its share of injustice, unfairness, and social imbalance. My own state, just 100 years into statehood, wants to shut down its borders and pretend that Arizona was not part of Mexico or that native tribes did not have a different idea of land ownership.
There is no shortage of damage in the world–in every town, city, country. Isn’t is ridiculous to think I can help? Me, with no skills in sociology or law?
My mind was a smooth blank as I pulled a piece of paper toward me to cut into shapes for a collage. The paper was a map of the night sky, and there, on one side, was Orion. The hunter himself didn’t have an auspicious, happy beginning among the gods. Orion was born from an ox-skin that various male gods had urinated in. He was blinded by his father-in-law, revived by the goddess Artemis, and then angered the Earth goddess Gaia, who sent a scorpion to kill him. Gaia then placed both Artemis and Orion in the sky as a warning to others not to harm the earth.
Not much healing there, and I don’t want to think about our punishment for all the plastic bottles we put in Gaia’s earth, either.
What I did notice was Orion’s sword. You can see a pinkish star in the knife at his waist. That’s not really a star, it is a whole nebula–an incubator for new stars. The young, forming stars are hot, and heat up the gas around them, causing it to fluoresce–so what we are seeing as a star is a cloud of gas and tiny hot stars 1,500 light-years away.
Maybe a small kindness, a prayer offered when someone asks for one, a small, unexpected generous act, maybe all that is the equivalent of a tiny hot star that helps light up the nebula. Without the star, and others like it, there would be no fluorescing nebula, no sword in Orion’s belt. And of course, if you are a star in a nebula, you don’t see all of Orion. You see something else when you look into the universe–dark sky with distance points of lights.
As my hands smooth over the paper, looking for a spot to cut into the paper, I wonder if the way you heal the world is one tiny, glowing act at a time. They add up over time, and eventually you have a constellation of healing put into the sky as a lesson to everyone else to help out, too.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer, creativity coach and artist who thinks art heals by scattering stars into the sky, one at a time.