In your mind, conjure an image of the Mona Lisa. Visualize that masterpiece's subtleties of hue and tone as clearly as you can.
Next, Shift to the image of a paint-by-numbers Mona Lisa. Envision the flat, raw colors meeting hard0edged, one against the other.
Now let me relate a fantasy about masterpieces, paint-by-numbers and you. It goes like this:
Before you were born, God came to you and said:
Hi there! I just dropped by to wish you luck. And to assure you that you and I will be meeting again. Soon! Before you know it!
You're heading out on a new adventure that will be filled with fascinating experiences. You'll start out as a tiny speck floating in an INFINITE, dark ocean, quite saturated with nutrients. So you won't have to go looking for food or a job or anything like that. All you'll have to do is just float in the darkness.
And grow incredibly.
And Change Miraculously.
You'll sprout arms and legs. Hands and feet. Fingers and toes.
As if from nothing, your head will take form, your nose, your mouth, your eyes and ears will emerge.
As you continue to grow bigger and bigger, you will become aware that that this dark, oceanic environment of yours-- which , when you were tiny seemed so vast is now actually cramped and confining. That will lead you to the unavoidable conclusion that you're going to have to move to a bigger place.
After much groping about in t the dark, you will find an exit. The mouth of a tunnel.
"Too small," you'll decide. "couldn't' possibly squeeze through there."
But there will be no other apparent way out. so with primal spunk, you will take on your first "impossible" challenge and enter the tunnel.
In doing so, you will be embarking on a brutal, no-turning-back, Physically exhausting, claustrophobic passage that will introduce you to pain and fear and hard physical labor. It will seem to take forever. But mysterious undulations of the tunnel itself will help squirm you through. And finally, after what will seem like interminable striving, you will break through to a blinding light.
Giant hands will pull you gently, but firmly, into an enormous room. There Will be several huge people called adults, huddling around you, as if to greet you. If it is an old-fashioned place, one of these humongous people may hold you upside down by the legs and give you a swat on the backside to get you going.
All of this will be what the big people on the other side call being born. For you, it will be only the first of your new life's many exploits.
I was wondering, while you're over there on the other side, would you do me a favor?
"sure" you chirp
Would you take this artist's canvas with you and paint a masterpiece for me? I'd really appreciate that!
Beaming, God hands you a pristine canvas. You roll it up, tuck it under your arm and head off on your journey.
Your birth is just as God had predicted, and when you come out of the tunnel into the bright room, some doctor or nurse looks down at you in amazement and gasps,
"Look! The little kid's carrying a rolled-up artist's canvas!"
Knowing that you do not yet have the skills to do anything meaningful with your canvas, the big people take it away from you and give it to society for safekeeping until you have acquired the prescribed skills requisite to the canvas's return. While society is holding this property of yours, it cannot resist the temptation to unroll the canvas and draw pale blue lines and little blue numbers all over the virgin surface.
Eventually, the canvas is returned to you, its rightful owner. However, it now carries the implied message that if you will paint inside the blue lines and follow the instructions of the little blue numbers YOUR LIFE WILL BE A MASTERPIECE.
And that's a lie.
You have a masterpiece inside you, you know. One unlike any that has ever been created, or ever will be.
If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece,
it will not get painted.
No one else
can paint it.