And greens and reds and . . . Apricot, Aquamarine, Mulberry and even Goldenrod. Sound familiar? No, these are not options on paint chips at Sherwin Williams. They are crayon colors. Who hasn’t had a box or two in their school desk or backpack? If many decades ago like me you went back to school in the Fall with one of the original Crayola 64-Packs, those more exotically named colors would have been included among the choices in your arsenal for creative expression. Maybe because I was artistically adept as a young grade schooler I couldn’t wait to pop open that box, to inhale the unique, unmistakable aroma of that amazing pallet of colors trapped in wax until I released their magic onto a blank piece of paper the first time we had art class.
Since Binney & Smith first began producing Crayola crayons in 1903, many colors over time have been cycled in and out. Earlier this year the company replaced Dandelion with yet another hue of blue. Some colors have remained the same shade but just experienced a name change over the years. Peach for example, previously labeled as Flesh, was probably renamed to be more politically correct and less racially exclusive.
To me the most disappointing aspect of the coloring experience was that of course with use, the points disappeared. Then it was a matter of peeling back the paper, and in the absence of some kind of sharpener, using the blunt end to try to render a crisp line. I suppose to my fellow elementary schoolmates that wasn’t a matter of great concern. But it bothered me. Maybe it was this disposition for perfection that led me to a career not in fine art but interestingly as a graphic designer. When I started, the profession was known simply as “commercial art,” the creative arm of the advertising world. When technology took over in the 90s, creative possibilities got a lot more sophisticated, and limitless. Eventually I gained the advantage of learning that my hand on a mouse could portray a world of imagination that my little fingers gripping stubby crayons tried to but could not. An old dog can learn new tricks.
Just thinking about my school days back in the 50s makes me wonder if the old adage “The more things change, the more they stay the same” might be a bit true. I grew up during the Cold War. We didn’t obsess about a wall to keep out undesirables, but there was an Iron Curtain between Russia and the rest of us. Gas was 25 cents a gallon. So was a pack of Camels. We had three-channel black and white TVs with rabbit ears reception that never actually helped get all the fuzz off the screen. I had a little battery operated transistor radio with an earpiece that let me listen underneath my bed covers at night and fall asleep to the latest rock & roll sounds beaming out of WLS Chicago. The only air conditioning we had in dad’s car was four windows rolled down all the way.
So, since then obviously much has changed. Some things are easier, and better. But maybe not human nature. Maybe it’s the same, because here we are today hearing about the threat of nuclear war. It was my generation they taught to “Duck and Cover” under our desks at school in the event of an atomic bomb blast. (Did we really believe that would help?) We worried, prayed and lived unscathed through the Cuban Missile Crisis, and now we will again endure what seems to be perennial saber rattling by another enemy opposed to truth, justice and the American way (the principles our comic book Superman fought for every issue).
I guess there are only a couple options for dealing with the current situation.
A new national poll finds that public concern over escalating tensions with North Korea is widespread, and that nearly three in four Americans are concerned the U.S. could get involved in a full-scale war. So we could live in fear, hanging on every “Breaking News” bulletin that crawls across the bottom of our television screens. Or we could ignore it, like it’s just another intensely dramatic action movie that eventually comes to a reasonably satisfactory ending and we get up out of our seats and go home to a normal life. Starbucks is still open. And the gym. Tomorrow’s a new day, right?
My plan, however, will be the same for this threat as with every serious concern that comes into my life. I will rely on the Bible’s admonitions to “Be anxious for nothing.” “Fear not.” “Be strong and courageous.” I think so many stories and verses from scripture could be summarily translated from Hebrew and Greek like this: “God says, ‘Hey, relax. I got this.’ Period.”
So tonight when my head hits the pillow, I’ll remember Psalm 4:8 which declares, “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” (KJV)
Peace and safety. Those are good things.