Monday, March 17, 2014

Great Wall Graffiti Shouts Look at Me

My mother had a saying: Fools names and fools faces always appear in public places. She referred to graffiti. Not the artistic work we see on rail cars or viaducts but the "John loves Sally" or "Sam was here" kind of stuff you find in bathrooms or on historical monuments.

There wasn't so much of it when I was a kid. Now it seems nearly everyone is painting their name onto something.  Why? Do we feel so important that our names deserve to be on the Great Wall of China (read more about that here) or do we feel so ignored that we deface great works of art in order to draw attention to ourselves?  What does scratching our names onto surfaces say about us?  What are we trying to tell others?

The news story about the Chinese reserving a section of the Great Wall for graffiti saddened me. It implies that we are so focused on self that we feel entitled to destroy a centuries-old marvel. The problem exists elsewhere of course. Look at the bridges in Paris that are covered with padlocks, rusting away and destroying the lovely views. Those locks are not an expression of love, which is selfless. They are another form of ego. They say, "Look at us, we're a couple."

Communication is a funny thing. There is more and more of it today than ever and perhaps that's the problem. Does our ability to communicate with the whole world make us feel small and insignificant? Do Facebook,, Twitter, and all the others somehow rob us of our sense of self? 

Let me ponder that while I carve my initials into this rock.