This was the start.
This was what led me to many sleepless nights, as I put things together.
This was the Prime Mover.
Don’t recognize it?
I guess a little perspective is in order. Let’s pull back a little, shall we?
There we go. That’s better.
Recognize it now?
This is the Gateway Arch, in St. Louis, Missouri.
It’s 630 feet tall and wide, skinned in stainless steel, and made to last 1000 years.
So what’s its significance to me?
Well, it didn’t mean much to me until 2014, when I first visited.
I did all the touristy stuff. Visited the gift shop. Rode the tram to the top. Took in the view.
It was quite impressive, and being the history nerd that I am, I enjoyed learning about it all.
But, what really got the cogwheels in my writer’s mind turning was the graffiti.
Scratched into the base of each of the Arch’s legs were names and insults and who knows what else.
And it was a one of those Moments of Clarity, Moments of Insight that happen every once in a while (if you’re lucky).
I remembered watching a documentary on the building of the Pyamids in Egypt, and how forms of lewd graffiti (most likely the doings of the laborers) were found there, as well.
So looking at the Arch, it made me smile, but it also made me a little sad.
Because this was, in essence, the human equivalent to a dog pissing on a post.
“Hey, man, I was here,” it says
But were you, really?
Here is this engineering marvel, utilizing cutting-edge design and construction ideas of the time and all you’ve done is etch a symbol into it, maybe as a lark, or maybe hoping that in some way, you will be associated with the greatness of this structure.
But that’s not the case.
Because it’s not your accomplishment.
So really, I think these markings are a visible form of resentment.
“Who the hell do you think you are, making this thing for all to see. I’ll show you.”
Tiny voices, trying to take down the feats of greater men.
And doesn’t that describe what happens on social media, as well?
Anyone well-known Tweets, even something innocuous, and dozens of people reply, hoping to get their attention.
And others, of course, can have less than savory things to say to them.
But is this all just a digital form of post pissing?
And I’d be a hypocrite if I claimed I didn’t ever engage in this, from time to time (This got me blocked from following his account, BTW).
But what really spoke to me about my visit to the Arch, was the sense that it was about damn time I started building something of my own.
Which was a big reason that I first began writing my anthology (even though it ended up taking longer than expected to finish).
And it’s also the reason that the Arch plays its own role in that Anthology.
It’s symbol of American exceptionalism, after all, and I used it to symbolize my love of and my fear for my beloved country.
And finally it was a call to action for me stop thinking about writing a book and just go and write the damn thing.
And if you’re reading this, take this as a sign to DO that thing you’ve always said you were going to do. Believe me, accomplishing it, whatever your it is, is immeasurably more rewarding than simply taking in the accomplishments of others, as I wrote about here.
And as a side note, if you’re thinking about writing something, be it a short story or a novel, check out my Storytellers’ Handbook, “Creating New Mythologies”.
One thought on “Beyond the Graffiti Legacy”