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Paint Your World As YOU Want It November 20, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Fiction, Happiness, Spirit & Ego.

Three young boys arrived at school one morning.  The teacher greeted them by saying, “Today, we’re going to Paint!”

The first child, Allen, arrogantly replied, “I’m an excellent painter!  My painting will be the best painting you’ve ever seen.  I’m the best painter in the class.”

The second child, Bernie, bashfully replied, “I can’t paint very well.  Do I have to paint?  I’d rather read a book.”

The teacher smiled, “Just paint from the heart, and I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

The third child, Calvin, cheerfully replied, “I love painting!  It’s such fun.  What are we going to paint?”

The teacher smiled, “You’re going to paint your world the way you want it.”

Allen sat down and considered his audience, as he contemplated which painting would bring in the most applause.

Bernie sat down, paralyzed at the thought of others evaluating his efforts and laughing at him.

Calvin sat down to consider what he wanted HIS world to look like, confident he could capture its essence.

As the teacher circulated, Allen used painstaking and controlled brush strokes to create a world designed to evoke the envy of others.  He used socially acceptable colors and themes to create a world that others would want to inhabit.   

Bernie stared at the blank canvas in front of him, fists clenched, wondering how to overcome his fear of failure.

Calvin reviewed the palette of colors and became immersed in his efforts, oblivious to what everyone else was painting.

Allen looked over at Calvin’s painting and thought, “What a joke.  Calvin’s painting looks terrible.  It’s just a bunch of squiggly lines.  My painting is much better than HIS.”  He returned his attention to painting, anxious to finish so he could show it to the teacher.

Bernie waited until the teacher wasn’t looking.  He quickly traced a farm scene off the cover of a book, omitting the cow (even though he loved cows) because it would have taken too long to paint.  Then, using the colors from the book’s cover, he painted the barn, the tractor and a few pink pigs without enthusiasm.

Calvin continued to focus solely on the next color, the next, the next, creating a unique painting all his own.

As Allen finished his painting, he eagerly called out to the teacher, “I’m done.  Come see MY painting!  It’s PERFECT.” 

The teacher looked at the technically correct painting and agreed that it was a beautiful world.  Allen absorbed her approval and basked in her praise. 

He didn’t care about the painting, or how painting it made HIM feel . . . he just wanted others to applaud his efforts.  Painting the picture had just been a means to the end.   

Bernie finished the last pig, and said, “I’m done.  It’s not very good.  I wanted to include a cow, but I don’t know how to paint a cow . . . so I left it out.”

The teacher admired the colors Bernie had used in his painting.  Bernie didn’t hear her.  He was mad at himself for not including a cow.  

Looking at the painting brought him no joy, because he’d left out the most important thing.

Calvin continued to paint with joyful abandon, paying no attention to his surroundings.  The teacher interrupted him, “Are you almost done, Calvin?”

Calvin looked up at her and blinked in surprise.  He had been so absorbed in the journey of painting that he had forgotten where he was. 

He looked at the painting in front of him and smiled.  He loved it.  Without knowing or caring what the teacher thought, he loved it.

“Yes.  I’m done.”

The teacher looked at it from every angle, unable to discern what Calvin had painted. 

Confused, she asked, “Calvin, did you understand the assignment?  I asked  you to paint your world the way you wanted it.”

Calvin smiled at her and back down at his painting, “I loved the assignment.  Thanks for letting us paint today.”

The teacher frowned, “Did you see what Allen painted?  He painted a schoolyard and an apple tree and children playing in the schoolyard.”

Calvin looked over at Allen’s painting, “That’s a good painting, Allen.”

Allen sneered at Calvin’s work, “I know.  I’m an excellent painter.”

The teacher looked back at Calvin’s painting, unable to decipher the intent behind the myriad of pink, purple, and turquoise swirls.  Hoping to gently let Calvin know that he had missed the point of the assignment, she said, “Look at Bernie’s painting.  He painted a barnyard and tractors and pigs . . . ”

Calvin looked over at Bernie’s painting, and smiled, “Bernie, that’s a good painting.  I bet those pigs like living there.”

Bernie, still frowning about how he had botched the exercise, looked up in surprise and then took another look at his painting.  He considered the pigs and thought, “I bet they do like living there.” 

He smiled back at Calvin and said, “Thanks.”

The teacher returned her attention to Calvin’s painting, still clueless, “Calvin, I’m afraid you’re going to have to tell me about your painting.  What is it?”

Calvin beamed at his painting, and then up at the teacher, “It’s happiness.”


“Yes, it’s the happiness that filled my world as I painted today.”

Related posts:  Embrace Your Inner Calvin *  A Study Of Contrasts

Artwork by Carole A. V. Dougherty ~ available at Island Gallery West


1. Richard W Scott - November 20, 2010

Cute story. I think achieving a detached feeling, the abandon Calvin felt, is a worthy goal, but then, I don’t think it is something you can THINK your way into. I believe you must find that spot outside of rational thought.

nrhatch - November 20, 2010

I agree. It’s not deciding to get lost in the moment . . . it’s enjoying what you’re doing so much that the world falls away of its own accord.

2. Barbara Gunn - November 20, 2010

That’s soooo cool!!!

nrhatch - November 20, 2010

Thanks, Barbara.

This story popped into my head while we were out and about today. Couldn’t wait to get back home and “paint Calvin’s world with words.”

3. souldipper - November 20, 2010

May the Calvins of the world be left alone enough to flourish!

This reminds me of a great message received the other day – God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but rejoices when we put forth a perfect effort.

nrhatch - November 20, 2010

Yes! When I paint, sing, dance, meditate, or write, I love getting lost in the moment.

When I enter in the creative flow, Ego disappears and Spirit rejoices.

4. thewondermya - November 20, 2010

Thanks for this, just loved it. I paint like Calvin so that post just filled my heart and body with joy and happiness !

nrhatch - November 20, 2010

Yay! There is nothing better to fill our hearts with than joy and happiness. 🙂

Calvin rocks! He knows how to enjoy the journey, without worrying about the “destination.”

5. Ollin - November 20, 2010

Thank you. I want to be Calvin! 🙂

nrhatch - November 20, 2010

We all have a little Calvin in us . . . we just need to give him room to create.

6. jannatwrites - November 21, 2010

Great story (and message). Thanks for sharing it!

nrhatch - November 21, 2010

Thanks, Janna

I see Allen as someone who uses his Ego as the sole measuring stick for life. As a result, he boasts and brags. Anything he does, he does for external recognition. And he constantly compares his efforts with the results others attain in order to further inflate his Ego. The journey of painting (and life) holds no inherent joy for him. The destination of applause, approval and accolades from others is ALL that matters.

Bernie, too, is primarily guided by Ego. Because he focuses on how his efforts will be received by others, he lacks confidence and is fearful. He, like Allen, compares his efforts with the results others achieve, while telling himself he does NOT measure up. When Calvin shifts Bernie’s perspective from how Bernie views the painting to how the PIGS must feel living there, Bernie enters the NOW and smiles for the first time all morning.

Calvin, in contrast, is relatively unconcerned with the Fear, Guilt, and Pride of Ego. He doesn’t care whether he paints BETTER than others. He enjoys the process. He doesn’t worry about whether he paints WORSE than others. He loves playing with color. He enters the NOW, paints one stroke at a time, and enjoys the journey. He is unconcerned with the destination. Only THIS MOMENT matters. The world falls away.

When he resurfaces, he sees the reflection of the Present Moment in what he painted. He captured how he FELT on paper. Looking at the painting fills him with JOY and HAPPINESS. He is unconcerned about what others think of his work ~ their opinion of him and his abilities as a painter are unimportant. He didn’t paint the picture for them. He painted it to capture his own spiritual essence. It’s HIS world.

Calvin uses an internal reference point to govern his actions and emotions. He loves the painting no matter what others think of it, because it captures how he FELT while painting it. Calvin travels through life using his internal compass, free of the applause, scorn, accolades, derision, approval, and disapproval of others. He is the HERO of his own life.

7. Loreen Lee - November 21, 2010

The best of painters, the best of musicians, the best of writers, look to the creativity of others for inspiration and guidance. The individual lives within a community. Sometimes there can be help in that community for the individual to learn what he/she does not know. As far as the story goes, it had good pacing and structure. As for the characterization, I would have introduced the characters in a different mode.The first child, Allen, arrogantly replied, “I’m an excellent painter! My painting will be the best painting you’ve ever seen. I’m the best painter in the class.”I would have said: The first child, Allen, confidently replied.

The second child, Bernie, bashfully replied, “I can’t paint very well. Do I have to paint? I’d rather read a book. For the second child, I would have had the teacher allow Bernie to read a book, if that is what would have made him happy.
Unfortunately, life is not always like that.
If the story had been written differently, the interpretation of life would have been different or vice versa; there would have been a different conclusion although it could still have been around the theme of what makes a person happy. After all, whose to say that Allen and Bernie did not experience a happiness of their own within even the dimensions of the story as written.
There are always confusion between the personal, psychological and the worldly, social factors, rather than clear differentiation between them.

nrhatch - November 21, 2010

LL ~ Given your comments, I see that your “inner Allen” doesn’t care for the story as written.

That’s OK. My “inner Calvin” does. 😉

8. Barbara Gunn - November 21, 2010

Guess I should have read your reply to Janna before I sent the message! I get it!!

nrhatch - November 21, 2010

No problem, BG! I enjoyed our cyber-chat.

Be the who you really are . . . the who you WANT to be.

9. Tammy McLeod - November 21, 2010

Well, you have to know that you have brightened the day of anyone who read this but mostly of a darling, talented, creative, confident and smiling Calvin seated here next to me! He remembers you commented on his blog and said, “did she remember me mom?” Thanks Nancy – you’re the best.

nrhatch - November 21, 2010

Hi Calvin! You are a darling, talented, creative, confident and smiling HERO!

And you have a pretty spectacular mom!

10. Julie - November 21, 2010

Go Calvin! One of the best responses to a question I’ve ever heard.

nrhatch - November 21, 2010

Calvin is my HERO. Fortunately, we each have an Inner Calvin.

To access his wisdom, we need only look within.

11. Paint Your World As YOU Want It (via Spirit Lights The Way) « Calvin Hamilton's Blog - November 21, 2010

[…] Three young boys arrived at school one morning.  The teacher greeted them by saying, "Today, we're going to Paint!" The first child, Allen, arrogantly replied, "I'm an excellent painter!  My painting will be the best painting you've ever seen.  I'm the best painter in the class." The second child, Bernie, bashfully replied, "I can't paint very well.  Do I have to paint?  I'd rather read a book." The teacher smiled, "Just paint from the heart, and … Read More […]

12. Paula Tohline Calhoun - November 21, 2010

I think we all have a bit of each of the boys’ personalities within us – depending on the day, the motivation, or the mood. Calvin certainly represents the pinnacle of happiness – happiness for its own sake -but we also have those days of arrogance (when I always make the biggest fool of myself! 😀 I’m never quite so dumb as when I’m trying to be or think I’m smart!). And of course there are those times when we lose any confidence in our talents or abilities and just “give in” to the feeling, and become for a while willing to settle for some faint praise in exchange for a sense of our own accomplishments. And that sense gives us motivation to forge ahead and THAT is when we find our own inner Calvins – lost in the moment, ever praising, ever joyful!

Good post, Nancy! Thank you! 😀

nrhatch - November 21, 2010

I agree with you:

* We can be proud, like Allen, when we participate in activities in which we excel.

* We can be paralyzed, like Bernie, when we feel less than confident in our abilities.

When we train our minds to drown out the voices of Allen and Bernie, we more easily hear our Inner Calvin calling to us as he leads the way.

13. Maggie - November 21, 2010

Good story. Very inspirational. Calvin-like people are my heroes!

nrhatch - November 21, 2010

Mine too! Thanks, Maggie. The more we strive to hear our inner Calvin, the more often we succeed in that endeavor.

As you proceed forward with NaNoWriMo . . . embrace your Inner Calvin!

14. Cindy - November 22, 2010

Very sweet story and a very good lesson.

nrhatch - November 22, 2010

May happiness fill your world as you “paint” today. 🙂

15. Greg Camp - November 22, 2010

My sixth grade teacher brought in plaster animals that he wanted us to paint for our art class. I picked an elephant and painted it pink with bright blue eyes and multiple spots. The grade that I received? An F.

For me, this was just another lesson in the power of the conventional. My work was different, and my teacher couldn’t understand it. Even in sixth grade art, everything had to make sense.

Now I do think that there are aesthetic standards that have to be met to create “art,” but that’s a subject for another discussion. Certainly, we need to respect the willingness of some children to experiment. The ones who will go on to practice art (be it painting, writing, medicine, accounting, whatever) will learn technique and possibility.

Masters in a field have to understand both freedom and limit, but unfortunately, too many schools merely focus on artificial limits.

nrhatch - November 22, 2010

Isn’t it a shame that the natural creativity we felt as children is weaned out of us by those who are more interested in herding “sheep” than in encouraging us to FLY?

16. Lisa Kramer - March 17, 2011

Love Calvin! Love happiness! Yay!

nrhatch - March 17, 2011

Glad you’re enjoying your art project today, Lisa.

It’s lovely to unleash our creativity.

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