Truth is, I've always been fascinated by stories. Good stories, hard stories, people’s stories. Through stories I learn of the struggles, vices, addictions, idols, and immaturities of others. I see their fear and their regret. I learn of their pain.
And they inspire me.
What end of inspiration is there when one paints another’s true portrait? Several years ago, I recognized in my friends and acquaintances, the opportunity for endless story telling; compelling stories that breach the incredible gap between what is said and what is meant. The kind of stories that bring to light what truly ails and beg to be recognized.
But as you can imagine, I faced a problem.
Not in the least, would I become a betrayer of confidences, so conspicuously declaring the secrets of friends, but more so, I would undoubtedly find the content so painfully revealing that any viewer may discover themselves unable to openly confront the mirrored message within. In truth, how many can say, ‘he is real,’ ‘she is honest,’ ‘they know themselves.’ Sadly, it is more accurate to acknowledge that we human beings contain within a great capacity to deceive and evade; powerful enough to prevent the very antidotes of healing we crave.
My solution thus, became the ragged doll.
The dolls started in my head. Meaningless metaphors with which I played when the world seemed cruel and content to toss me about like a ragged doll. Their limp bodies, torn clothing, expressionless faces all seemed too easy a comparison and so dramatic.
Before long, I found I had befriended their symbolism and comforted myself with their similarities. I saw in them their human qualities and watched as they began to tell our stories, not by words or pictures even, but by their very existence.
The doll's existence is the story. They wear on their being the journey of each life. The scars and tears in fabric, the scrapes, the misuse, abuse, abandonment; they are all there, written on the body for all to see. She is a visual autobiography. His is a story told in the patches, the sewn-up edges and the carefully repaired abrasions.
The doll is often considered an object of beauty, not because it is unsullied but because it is survived; more cherished for age, marks, patches and repairs.
What better metaphor of humanity? What better understanding of beauty?
There is value in rediscovery, in the journey, in the scars and patches of our lives. There is redemption.
These dolls tell our stories. They welcome us to talk openly of our pain. They teach us vulnerability and honesty and freedom. And they are just the beginning.