Art! It makes you feel feelings.

All of this is because of art

An average person is having an average day. Earlier, they woke up, ate some breakfast, and eventually made their way to an art museum. It doesn’t really matter why.

They wander the halls, examining the sculptures, paintings, and drawings. As their eyes fall upon a particular work, a switch flips inside their mind. They’re moved by the way the images are displayed, the way the colors compliment each other, the way the shading and texturing brings some aspects forward and pushes others back. The person tears up, inexplicably reminded of their grandmother snapping green beans at her kitchen sink. They smell the almost overwhelming earthy scents of the farm. They hear cicadas singing out the window above the sink and their grandmother humming some old hymn.

They hum right along with her… and laugh… and cry.

Turning away after what feels like an eternity trapped in a moment, they wipe their cheeks and sigh, the pleasant memory dancing around them. They leave the museum, nostalgia making them happy, making them sad, making them hungry for green beans, and urging them to visit their grandmother’s gravesite. They go there with a bouquet of flowers and a bag of green beans. After placing the flowers in the memorial vase, they sit, snapping the beans, crying softly and laughing loudly.

Walking home with a bag full of snapped beans ready to be boiled and eaten, they feel drained in all the right ways. Today, they think, was a good day. They sleep that night, dreaming of summers spent on their grandmother’s farm. They wake up the next morning, energized.

Today, they think, will be a good day.

Years earlier, this same person picks up a novel they were interested in. I don’t know why. Perhaps they heard one of their friends talking about it and it had aspects that they thought sounded cool. Maybe it’s an epic fantasy. Maybe it’s a literary romance. Who can say? And more importantly, who cares what interests this person? So they purchase it and sit down one quiet afternoon, ready to read. As they dig in, their eyes as shovels, they realize they’ve found a treasure. The deeper they dig, the more they feel, the more they really feel.

They find themselves laughing along with the novel’s characters, crying at their tragedies, enjoying their successes as though they were their own. Before long, the person has become friends with them, real, true friends. They place legitimate value on their relationship with these works of fiction. They are invested in their lives as though they are real people. Spoiler alert! They are real people and all the emotions characters in the novel pull from the reader are as real as the emotions their flesh and blood friends pull from the reader.

It is not long before the sequel to this novel is released. This person reads it and is horrified as they witness one of their friends die. They cry. They are inconsolable. They feel defeated, angry, desperate, and sad. They keep reading though, seeing their own emotions reflected in the surviving characters. As they continue, they slowly come to terms with the death and learn to appreciate the beauty of life. While that death — while every loved one’s death — will always, always sting, they move on because there is no other option. In many ways, this story helps them deal with the death of their grandmother, a woman they loved in much the same way they loved the character in this book.

Long before even this, as a lonely child, this person stumbles across a cartoon about a superhero whose life experience is much the same as their life experience. Out in the real world, this child is surrounded by people who do not look like them, act like them, or live like them. This child, though they have friends, though they have yet to experience the true evils of the world, knows they are different and has, on some level, accepted it.

But this cartoon delivers to them a connection they’ve never known. They see the way the superhero helps people. They see the way others light up when the superhero swoops in to save the day. They hear the cheers, they feel the joy, and they want the accolades the superhero receives. But this is all surface level, childish understanding. While there is nothing wrong with this, there is more going on as this child sits in front of their television every afternoon for 20 minutes absorbing what they see.

Something is developing inside of them, an interest in the fantastic combined with a desire to help, a desire to be like their hero. But more than that, the show firmly plants in their brain the fact that anyone can be a hero in a way neither of their parents could. This, of course, is no dig at their parents, rather an understanding that sometimes messages of hope are better received from superheroes.

This child grows up, keeping that cartoon in their heart and soul and goes forward to do great things.

All of this is because of art.

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AE Stueve

AE Stueve

AE Stueve teaches and writes in Omaha, NE. Check out all of his available work at aestueve.com