When I told my friend, Kaarina Dillabough, I had to run off to a termite inspection, I meant it. I was running off to a termite inspection. She may have known I was being truthful, but she followed my comment with one of her own: “‘I’ve got to run off to a termite inspection’ would be a great title for a blog post.” I verified that she meant her words and, without further ado, accepted her challenge.
I’ve accepted similar challenges in the past. I’m not usually one to back away from a challenge, even if it’s a silly one. I’ve sometimes gotten myself into trouble with my competitive nature (Bloodied knees, anyone?), but most of the writing challenges have turned out well. I’ve written about gorillas, polar bears, and blue whales because of a challenge issued and accepted.
When it comes to Kaarina’s challenge, I’m a little more lost than usual. What exactly can I say about a termite inspection? As I’ve been thinking about the challenge, I keep returning to an essay entitled “The Shape of Content.” The author, Ben Shahn, states:
Content, I have said, may be anything. Whatever crosses the human mind may be fit content for art – in the right hands. It is out of the variety of experience that we have derived varieties of form; and it is out of the challenge of great idea that we have gained the great in form – the immense harmonies in music, the meaningful related actions of the drama, a wealth of form and style and shape in painting and poetry.
Content may be and often is trivial. But I do not think that any person may pronounce either upon the weight or upon the triviality of an idea before its execution in a work of art. It is only after its execution that we may note that it was fruitful of greatness or variety of interest.
I don’t think termites or a termite inspection have much “weight” to them, at least not in my hands. The two subjects might be better served by another. I do think, though, that “[c]ontent…may be anything,” and it’s in embracing anything that one finds a sense of play and wonder.
Photo: Alan Bruce (CC BY 2.0)