Fast forward to December 2015 and I’m reading a book by Oliver James – ‘They F**k You Up / How To Survive Family Life’. James’s contention through this book is that many attributes and issues we have and suffer from in adult life are little to do with genetics (i.e. ‘nature’) but can be shown to be caused by the interaction (i.e. ‘nurture’) of our parents and carers in the critical first few months and years of our lives. He draws on a number of studies of twins to ‘prove’ that if many of the issues and attributes were genetic then both twins in an genetically identical pair of twins should show the same outcomes – which the studies disprove.
His contention is then that if government funding were diverted from the prison and justice system to build a family support system then many of the problems we face today could be alleviated by supporting families in this critical stage of development and thus prevent anti-social behaviours developing. Unfortunately current ‘right-wing’ thinking prescribes to the theory of Eugenics which is essentially poor people are poor because that’s the way they are – it’s in their genes, ditto for criminals and intelligence and art and music. You either have it or you don’t. There’s no room for real meritocracy in modern day Britain.
So the spark that fired for me was that art and music and intelligence are not genetic, or at least they may be a small part genetic, but are mostly learnt behaviours. Artists and musicians are not great because they are genetically gifted, they are great because they were and are obsessed with the thing they are great at and have therefore put in many thousands of hours practicing and developing and training in that thing at which they are great.
Take a look at this picture – the proportions of the head are wrong, the fingers too – now what if told you this is a Van Goch? He only started drawing and painting in the last ten years of his life and there are many examples such as this practice piece where he sometimes gets it wrong. So, if Van Goch can learn how to draw, why couldn’t I?
If only things were so simple – I found the drawing book again, grabbed some pencils and sat down to draw. First I tried to draw the nearest thing to hand – the cover illustration of ‘The Story of the Heart’ by Roger J Woolger.
Even if you’re not familiar with the book you can probably guess that the heart design pictured here bears no resemblance to the illustration I was attempting to copy. Ok, so let’s try again, let’s go wild with some colours.
A sailing ship – fail, a tree – fail, a bird – fail, a stylised tribal turtle – hmm, ok not bad. Defeated I resorted to colouring in random shapes to calm my mind and try and forget about the whole drawing thing again.