I wander through an art exhibit, and I admire all the extraordinary work. Majestic landscapes, history written in people’s faces… And then I am halted, floored, at a painting of a cabbage harvest.
There was an artist.
And he was called a painter of cabbages.
(And he did paint cabbages, but this wasn’t just another case of an unimaginative nickname.) This was an insult.
He was mocked for the lack of importance in his work. Scoffed at, scorned. I can imagine the simpering smirks etched into his mind’s eye and the harsh laughter echoing in his ears.
Are nothing, of little importance.
They are the mundane and the overlooked, insignificant in a land full of great wonders. Whoever takes a moment to stop and admire the cabbages? There are too many roses that crush the less beautiful with their insubstantial petals. There are plenty of spices and delicacies that drown out the blandness of other plants. One cannot be bothered by something so inconsequential, so irrelevant in his world.
Cabbages are nothing to look at, nothing to talk about.
But this word- nothing.
This word gets tossed around on a daily basis as though it is nothing.
Because what is the opposite of something? What does one see, hear, feel, in this nothingness?
As a child, this question confused me to no end.
I would imagine the deepest darkness I could, a darkness that swallows you whole and breaks you down into shadow.
And yet, this darkness moves and breathes and consumes. Its vastness and eerie quiet cannot cover up the fact that it is something.
I would imagine the blankest whiteness I could call forth from my imagination, a great expanse void of color, void of life.
And yet, that blankness is not nothing; it is the sum of everything. It is the rainbow caught up and tangled together, breaking apart and colliding again and again until the colors disappear into a crisp cleanness.
I was stumped. I could not imagine the first thing about nothing. And so I opened the yellowed pages of a dictionary, hunting for an answer in the knowing, musty smell. Words tumbled out at me, words describing everything imaginable, down to the smallest of things. And I came to the accepted definition of nothing.
“Nothing” is defined as something or someone of no importance or significance.
And once a man was mocked as a painter of cabbages, wasting his time trying to immortalize “nothing” on a canvas.
But I disagree with the mockery, and I disagree that he was creating something unimportant. I believe he captured the most important thing in his painting.
Because the most beautiful painter in all the worlds and all the universes was a painter of cabbages. And this same painter constructed the crashing water of the ocean, sponging on angry foam at the jaws of a mighty wave and smoothing on the depths of hue needed for a calm, soothing sea. He hand-picked the purples needed to fortify the mountains, etching into their hardness the softness of a white blanket, molding them into sentries with wise eyes and deep, rumbling breaths that keep watch over all. He finger-painted the streaks of a sunset, mixing the reds of his blood, the blues of his sweat, and blending it with the love in his tears to create a masterpiece of fiery gold spreading its wings to fly off into the night.
He lovingly detailed each blade of grass, each rough piece of bark, each speck of dirt. And he made each glorious breath of air that fills our lungs, each pulse and throb of life that beats in our chests.
Each small detail of this existence that add up to the most wondrous everything. Each small detail that blocks out the great expanse of nothingness that threatens to swallow us up.
And he painted these details with fierce brushstrokes of love, marking the earth and sky and heavens with the powerful paint of a being far greater than anything we have ever known. With each line, shadow, and stroke, more greatness and potential were instilled in this world than anything we can ever fathom.
And so I stand in this museum and marvel at this painting of cabbages. Because this painter got it right.
I erase the word “nothing” from my vocabulary, and vanquish it into the nothingness from whence it came. For I refuse to mock the one who has crafted so much wonder and beauty around me. Who has crafted me.
With the knowledge of my maker comes complete and utter peace. As I become one who knows what she is made of. I am made of the strongest stuff known to man; I have unfathomable greatness and potential in my being, molded and shaped with colors not of this world.
I cannot be pinned down, I cannot be defeated, I cannot be described with mere words.
I am more than something.
I am the ferociousness of the ocean, the strength of the mountains, the fire of the sunset.
And I am the cabbage.
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