This has been a Barack Obama and basketball Sunday as the rain gives my newly fertilized lawn a surge. Not yet finished with Audacity of Hope, I couldn’t wait to jump into Dreams From My Father, and I just have about a quarter of an inch left to go.
So far the book has been like a Picasso painting as Obama tries to put the pieces of his broken story together and make sense of his identity. Written in 1995 at Harvard Law School, the book is given depth by knowing what has become of the young author as he now builds his campaign for president on this story he struggled to paint.
What comes through the book for me is the clear voice and intelligence of the painter as he remembers and gives shape to his memories and the many colored oils that have made up his palate. We are all painters, artists with a given set of oils from which to create our canvas, and our whole life’s purpose is to make our life in that painting conscious. That’s what comes through to me in Obama’s struggle with his odd mix of oils, which has given him a unique opportunity to see his story from both sides at once, like one of those paintings that when you squint your eyes you see a new picture rising from what you thought was the background.
First Obama saw no color as a child in Indonesia, then back in an American public school, he saw black, but he also saw white, and so the painting goes as he discovers that each time he thinks he knows who he is, the background shifts again and a new picture comes forth.
The question Obama asks, and we find ourselves asking as readers, is whether we are our story, or are we the author of our story and the only ones who can auathentically give our story meaning. Do we let others give us meaning or do we choose ourselves? That is the canvas we are given to paint. We have the freedom to choose what our picture means and how to live in it. We can choose to create our story or be created by it. Obviously, Obama chooses to create his own story once he went through the oils to discovers what his given colors are.
What we forget is that life is just paint; its meaning comes from our choices. There are no good or bad colors; there are just colors and a canvas. The truth Obama seeks in this book is that we, as life, are the canvas as well as the colors, and that when we identify with the canvas, we are free from color.
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This post was written by ed on March 31, 2008