Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What's Hiding In Your Head...and Your Heart?

What’s going on in your head that no one knows about? 

Nooooo, I’m not talking about you Repubs spending last night wearing your Trump masks and flipping The Bird at the television throughout the Democratic Convention.

I’m not talking about you Dems mooning every news story about Trump…course, you ARE spending a LOT of time de-pantsed, now aren’t you?

(Stick with me on this…it’s a little long, but you’ll like it)

You may be like me; there are lots of times when we’re in line at the grocery store or sitting in the crowd at an event and we look around at our neighbors and think WTF?!?!?!

Just kidding…

I don’t know about you, but I wonder, “What are they thinking? What gems, treasures and great discoveries are hidden in their minds.” 

I think about what ideas they have that might never be revealed…much to the detriment of their  lives and, sometimes, the world. 

Here’s the best example I have: For most of his life, Mr. Vollis Simpson lived in Lucama, a little town just south of Wilson, NC; less than a mile off I-95. One of his sons, Mike, was a great college friend and I was in his wedding. 

When I met Mr. Simpson (as a Southern male, I’ll keep referring to him as “Mr. Simpson” because he was my elder and, definitely, my better) and shook hands with him, I thought, “This man has the biggest and roughest hands I’ve every encountered.” Later, I learned where the roughness came from. He was one of 12 children and was expected to work from the time he could walk (and pretty much impressed that work ethic on his children). Mr. Simpson left school in the 11th grade. He owned and operated a machine shop where he created machinery for heavy equipment and for hauling large trucks.

From the night before the wedding, through the next day, I don’t think I heard Mr. Simpson say two words, nor did I see him smile. He was obviously more comfortable in overalls than he was in a suit. If you had seen him in line at the grocery store you’d think, “Another big-ole country guy.” It wasn’t a bad or disrespectful thing at all, just an immediate impression.

There was nothing to indicate what was going on inside his mind.

What I later learned was that he was the most creative person—and one of the greatest surprises—I’ve ever encountered in my life.

By the end of his long and productive life in June, 2013, at 94, he had become one of America’s most unlikely art stars. His giant whirligigs made from metal scraps are not only seen in The Whirligig Park in Wilson, they whirl in a variety of locations around the country, including the Fearington Village south of Chapel Hill. 

According to his obituary in The New York Times, “His 55-foot-tall, 45-foot-wide ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,’ is on permanent display at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, and his works are part of several other collections, including the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan.”

When his wonderful wife, Jean, was asked in the Times interview how he came up with his creations, which clicked, clacked, spun and jangled, she said, “It was just in his mind and in his brain and it just came out.”

it just came out

“He did it for his own pleasure in the beginning,” Ms. Simpson said in the Times. “It caught on and people liked it. It went from there.”

Mr. Simpson didn’t call’em whirligigs. “Didn’t call it nothing,” he said in a 2010 Times interview. “Just go to the junkyard and see what I could get. Went by the iron man, the boat man, the timber man. Ran by every month. If they had no use for it, I took it.”

Finally, he thought of them as windmills. Art experts viewed them as outsider art or visionary art. Later, they looked at them as giant interpretations of the old whirligig toys. 

While he started creating his art in the 1970s, the Times noted that, “he built his first windmill to power a large washing machine for soldiers’ clothing while he was serving in the Pacific during World War II in the Army Air Corps. He made it from parts of a junked B-29 bomber.” 

When he started putting’em up on his family farm people thought he was crazy. “Everybody made fun of me and laughed at me,” Mr. Simpson said in a documentary paid for by the North Carolina Arts Council. “I didn’t pay ’em no damn mind.”

didn’t pay’em no damn mind

Years later, after he was discovered some of his windmills would eventually sell for thousands of dollars. While he wondered if his creations would eventually simply rust and fall down, that’s not happening. In addition to the park, Wilson now has a Whirligig Festival each year that replaced the Tobacco Festival. If you don’t know North Carolina or Wilson, and you have no inkling of the importance of tobacco in the history of that part of the state, I can assure you that that fact alone shows how one man can do something that moves an entire community into the future.

One of the great regrets of my life is that after I found out about the whirligigs I did not go back to Lucama to see Mr. Simpson and talk about his efforts. Because of that loss I now pass no opportunity to ask people about their creativity, their ideas, and how they might have an impact.

I’m always amazed at how often people think their ideas are simply oddities, little nothings to be tossed aside like a used napkin…what seems to amaze them is that I’m interested. And, how easy it might be to see if the idea might work…if nothing else, just of the fun of it. 

I’m also amazed at how many people won’t pursue an idea because they don’t think it’ll make a million dollars. SCREW THAT!!!! You have to realize that the little idea may lead to another and then another…and then, you never know.

I recently made a mobile with seashells, sticks and fishing line…just to see if I could do it. It was fun and it was great!!! 

Your ideas are important. Maybe not to the world…yet…but to you. 

What are you hiding in your mind?

As for what other people might think…

don’t pay’em no damn mind

Check out The Whirligig Park:

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