I met a young woman a few weeks ago who had an ampersand, almost exactly like the one in the picture above, tattooed to the inside of her left wrist. At first I thought it might be a treble clef symbol, or maybe a fancy capital S. But no, it was an &. Bold and fresh, new and still a little tender. Interesting, also, as it was the only visible artwork on her otherwise pristine skin.
Now, I’ve come to understand that asking people about the meaning of their personal artwork is a very sensitive thing. And the fewer pieces they have, the more reluctant they sometimes are to share the meaning. Although their art is worn on their skin, the level at which they choose to reveal the layers of symbolism of that art is a complicated thing. Most people, I find, have at least one very short, easy explanation, truthful but limited, that suffices to explain in polite conversation. But I’ve also learned that most people don’t commit their thoughts to that level of permanence without there being a longer story and a deeper truth beneath the surface. Sometimes we share more, sometimes less. It’s just a matter of how vulnerable we are willing to be at the moment.
I wondered which version of the ampersand she would share with me.
She is a writer, she explained, and she found the ampersand to be the most aesthetically pleasing of all the grammatical symbols.
Level 1. Easy answer. And, being a bit of a font freak myself, I thought that was cool.
But then she went on and gave me Level 2. She went on to explain that it also was a special symbol, because it connects two unlike things. The ampersand allows for two divergent ideas to come together in a single sentence, a combined thought. And that’s how she wanted to live her life.
Making room for &.
Wow. That really struck me. Because that’s exactly what we’ve been working on for a while here, with the Vergence Project. Making room for “&” requires a certain amount of courage. It means taking risk and looking beyond one’s self to consider a different point of view, to include the thoughts and feelings and spirit of people unlike our constant circle of friends. It symbolizes growth & movement & change. All things that usually make folks very uncomfortable.
The second cut off the record, Evolution for the Heart, is about considering just that kind of change. This song was also the second work we wrote together, composed in the Fall of 2011. It started with the idea of noticing the artificial walls that we’ve either built or allowed to be placed around our lives, and considering what life might be like to look beyond them. What might happen if we quit listening to those negative voices within our head and started finding our true voice. The one we were born with that speaks to our individual strength and contribution.
“It is time for a new start.
I see an evolution for the heart.”
Making room for “&” is what Phil did when he agreed to take me on as a co-writer:
Artist & Audience
Yorkshireman & Texan
English & German
Male & Female
Rock & Classical
Guitar & Piano
Musician & Physician
Cool & Nerdy
Producer & Visionary
Heart & Soul
And as I sat looking at the ampersand on her wrist, considering all of this expanded meaning in the briefest instant of a moment, she kept talking. Went on to explain yet another layer. Bonus. Level 3. The placement of this art. She had placed it where she had the option of showing it or not, depending on the social circumstance. When she chooses not to show it, she covers it with a watch. She covers her vulnerability with yet another key ingredient of art……time.
Whew. All kinds of symbolism going on here. That was a lot to share with a perfect stranger. That took a lot of trust. I gathered my thoughts and we finished our meeting, but she left me thinking about my own “&”……what time would reveal about what I said & did & created & loved & shared.
Love draws a bigger circle.