Greatness finds its meaning


Sometimes you stand in the shadow of greatness – and I’m not talking about meeting Madiba.

That was Beloved’s pluk: Nelson Mandela wrote a prologue to one of his books, there was a photo opportunity and I can still look at Madiba’s scribble in a first edition probably worth thousands.

I like my greatness closer to home; my heart must break… And it did today. I glibly put the greatness that touched me today in a friend zone.

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And I hoped he appreciated that I really, really know zilch about his art. Or his fame.

I was hoping I’m “refreshing”, even though I have heard protest songs about him; seen the doctorates on his work; certificates on his wall: honorary doctor; honorary professor… I now know I’m a babe in the woods.

Me poking him every morning with a stick in his abundant belly about words we’re working on in his umpteenth dictionary, calling him “lazy” is plain … presumptuous.

Yes, he shares my love for the word. I walk past wordy artworks four out of a five-day work week to remind me of exactly that.

But he took me on a journey today: “Come see how I teach conceptual art. That’s really how you learn to draw.”

I get 135 slides set to haunting “airport music because they know planes fall and you need to be calm”.

I don’t know. I’m not a frequent flyer.

But neither the detail, nor the simplicity escapes me; maybe my saving grace because I’m invited on a Druid walk through New York in 2008 – poetry in motion.

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He takes infinite pictures you and me won’t even think about twice: the Falling Man manifesting in flaking paint; the twin towers in two red bars painted on the road; a squashed orange someone stepped on the sidewalk becomes the blood of falling people; a yellow blotch blending with a white stripe is The Plane.

I fall through the cracks on the tar and I realise his mind is just wired differently.

He is greatness. And I am humbled that he indulged me to be part of that journey.

I’m now a frequent flyer. Thank you.