Urged by my Independent Studies professor to explore all we’ve learned together about “Child Rearing Across Cultures” by creating a piece of art, I initially found my hands sweating and my head pounding as I tried to sit down and begin to make sense of the hundreds of connections that were strung in spider webs across my brain. The hardest part of this process, as is true in many life experiences, was beginning. It started with a yellow blue-lined and slightly crumpled piece of notebook paper. Here, I half-heartedly sketched a globe, an American Flag, the evolution of man (obviously an abbreviated version) and the face of a baby. These were the images that first came to mind as I pondered my experience with “Raising America,”the “Tiger Mom” debate, “Our Babies, Ourselves,” and “Remotely Global.” Taking in these childlike sketches, I decided quickly that I could use the images as symbols for each of the books we’d studied–using them as starting points for mapping out the endless ricocheting connections and questions about child rearing. Somehow, the three panels of black posterboard taken from my mother’s office would have to represent everything from the politics of breast feeding to the philosophical notion that as human beings we are more relational than selfish.
I was stuck.
Staring at blank black loosely etched with outlines of faces, a flag, and a map of the world, my eyes squinted in concentration. I needed to submerge my mind in that same electric feeling that comes so often toward the end of my independent study courses. That feeling that puts me on the edge of my seat, and has me scribbling notes furiously as I try to keep up with the dovetailing rapid pace of the connections being made between my brain and my professor’s. In those moments, everything starts to come together.
To get back to that place, I found myself typing up all of those hurriedly scrawled notes. As I sorted the scrawl into neat bullet points, I felt all of those connections flooding back. I saw our early discussions in new light–weaving them into the recent conversations of these past two weeks. I began to chart the journey of this course. Afraid of losing my creative state of mind, I got to work. 5 cut up magazines and 3 torn up newspapers later, I was on my way. There wasn’t necessarily an order to my madness. Leafing through pop culture, images of foreign lands, and world headlines, I took my scissors to anything that jumped out at me and fit into my Child Rearing Across Cultures brain web. The result? An American flag of parent-instilled values and worries, depictions of the brains of a mother and two children, and a tissue paper map with images meant to blur cultural boundaries.
Faced with three panels that still screamed “unfinished” to my reeling mind, I returned to my black ink bullet points. Re-reading and analyzing each, the scribbling began. On 4 sheets of blank printer paper, I sketched out what eventually would look like one of those endless logic proofs I completed in torturous hours of high school math class. However, this list of steps was different. It wasn’t forced or hurried. It flowed. In numbers 1 to 28, I connected selected images (and the ideas they represent) from my collages to one another–finding that in the end, all were connected. After numbering each of these symbols carefully, and beginning to connect them from 1 to 2 and 2 to 3 with fine pieces of colored thread, I realized the effort was futile. The connections were endless. There were not just 28, but 280. Or more. I gave up with the careful string pasting, and went wild. Thread across all black panels.
After finishing my slightly smudged master key and pasting a final golden thread, it was finished. I think that the penciled pages of numbered connections will eventually turn into the “un-paper” that was originally suggested for this project–an exploration of the questions answered and the countless left to ask. As for today, I’m sure I’ll be able to fill our hour of meeting time with an explanation of these pictures of my mind: