I imagine Pablo Picasso’s mother was like anybody else’s mother.
I bet she hung her son’s weird finger paintings on the refrigerator and bragged about his art to her friends. I bet she yelled when Pablo spilled paint on the new carpet and I bet she felt guilty about it later.
I read a quote from Pablo once where his mother was quoted. It said: “My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.”
I like this quote for a few reasons. Initially, because it brings some humanity to the popular artist and we could all use a healthy dose of humanity. But more than that, I like this quote because there are no bad outcomes. Either, he is the success his mother knew he would be, or he finds his own genius.
This brings me to another strange dead man with a touch of abstract and perhaps a stroke of genius.
Mr. John Bradford lived in the mid-1500s in Renaissance London and strolled the cobbled streets as a political and religious icon during the English Reformation. One day, as he watched a convicted fellow be led to England’s notorious gallows, Bradford spoke a quote that we still use today, “There but by the grace of God go I.”
There but by the grace of God go I.
Into the gallows, to the top-ranked college, in a bed in the emergency room, or in the boss’s office, ready for a promotion… there but by the grace of God go I. It’s another way of saying, “I could end up in that person’s shoes in the blink of an eye. It is only by grace (or luck, or circumstance, or the crystals hanging around your neck) that you have not suffered a similar fate.”
To be perfectly honest, I don’t love Picasso. I think he was kind of a jerk and I had enough of my own Blue Period to ever feel the need to get into his. But still, as he watched the much beloved Pope address the world, or a highly decorated general receive yet another medal of honor, did he ever step back and think, “There but by the grace of God go I.” After all, avoiding these prestigious positions is the only way he was able to become, well, Picasso.
This is the work cut out for me this September, reframing the unlucky and inconvenient and not according to my very strict and color-coded Virgo-centric plan. That whenever a moment of missed opportunity strikes, I can look at those who are in the position I thought I had coveted so badly and say, “There but by the grace of God go I.”
Because sure, the Pope or a General would be cool. But maybe, just maybe, I was meant to be Picasso.
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