Editor's note: There is a great Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days in the month of Elul to study and prepare for the coming high holy days. The time is supposed to challenge us to use each day as an opportunity for growth and discovery. On each of the 29 days of Elul, performer Craig Taubman posts a "jewel," or story, from some of today's most celebrated visionaries. Past contributors include President Barack Obama, Desmond Tutu, Sarah Lefton, Eli Wiesel, Deepak Chopra, Ruth Messinger, and Jeffrey Katzenberg -- among many others. Today's reflection comes from Ketra Oberlander:
In my late thirties my vision deteriorated; by 40 I was blind. I picked up a paintbrush and my life changed. Just a slice of my philosophy: there's no problem so big you can't give your way out of it. My needs are met. So, if I can barely see, I just don't need the level of detail in my world most folks need (I do, however, carry a tube of hand sanitizer because we blind folk touch a lot of gross stuff.) My challenge, as a sentient being, is to understand the gifts I have to share, despite my limitation.
People like my paintings; when I have a chance to show them, the work sells well. As I began to seriously consider an art career I hit the physical barriers of a physical disability: I had a physics problem. How can I serve? How can I give my way out of my own difficulties? I began investigating ways to prosper as an artist while circumnavigating the physics of art. I touched on licensing and had an epiphany: if rights management of the art worked for me, it could solve the same problem for other physically disabled artists! I could build a scalable model to help others!
Most faiths have a story of the hapless dude whom God chooses. God says, "You," and the dude looks around. "Me?" he wonders. "I have flaws. I have problems. You're God and can pick anyone. And you want me?" The hapless dude who answers the call takes the first, shaky step. The resource he needs appears. Then he takes the next step, and through a confluence of mystery, at each step the elements to advance his mission are provided.
That's now my story, too. I had to take those first (and many subsequent) steps. Through helping others, my own difficulties are transcended.
Now I have problems in areas where I didn't used to have areas!
Ketra Oberlander founded Art of Possibility Studios to represent physically disabled artists (www.aopstudios.com).
"If" Question: If you had to name one thing you have always wanted to do, but have not been any good at, what would it be? Is there a way to take a step to being better at it?