Lovers, Dreamers and Me
A Look Into Life-Changing Art
By Trevor Ziegler
We’ve all had experiences at one point or another that have completely flipped the script on our perception of the world and the way we live. These events tend to be anecdotal in nature, consisting of profound, one-of-a-kind occurrences that challenge existing thought and promote newer perspectives. It’s possible that art can have a similar effect on an individual in the correct circumstances. Though in almost all cases, popular art is usually not tailor-made with the intended goal to “change lives,” it is when specific connections are created between the art and the individual experience that it can become life changing.
I went around and asked some of my friends about the first life-changing piece of art they experienced. Naturally, their answers varied to a significant degree, but the descriptions of these experiences shared many similar characteristics. For most, this piece of art transcended any aesthetic value and worked to penetrate the very psyche of the individual. The life-changing art served as some sort of cosmic solution to a profound internal conflict.
I’d like to bring to your attention the phrase, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This idiom applies to the conversation of life-changing art. When asking my friends about their picks, I found that most of their answers weren’t critically acclaimed masterpieces or considered “classics.” All of these pieces of art, however, share the ability to stimulate imagination and inspire people to attach deeper meanings and context to the piece.
Keeping these factors in mind, I began my internal deliberation to determine my first life-changing piece of art. I had a few ideas, but most of them seemed rooted more from an artistic standpoint as opposed to one considered anecdotal. In what was probably the sixth hour of trying to solve this dilemma while simultaneously bashing my head against the keyboard, I had a eureka moment.
Remembering my undying love for anything and everything associated with the Muppets, a friend had sent me a trailer for the upcoming Muppet movie. I was giddy with excitement as I watched the clip over and over with presumably the dumbest-looking grin on my face the entire time. After playing the video for probably the 12th time, (to be honest, I lost count) I realized that this was my life-changing art. Not this movie specifically, but my first exposure to the Muppet Universe, The Muppet Movie.
I was about 6 or 7 years old when I first saw this film that changed my life. I just remember being floored almost immediately by the film for some reason. The jokes, the music, the story; they all seemed to resonate with me more than anything I had ever seen. I watched it on repeat for months until I had the entire movie memorized, much to the chagrin of anyone who watched it with me at the time.
I could never pinpoint exactly why this movie meant so much to me early on, nor did I really care. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized why this film had such a significant impact on my life. The Muppet Movie, on paper, was a silly road-trip flick about a ragtag band of entertainers desperate to make it big in Hollywood. To me, it was a desperate group of like-minded outsiders trying to show the world their worth by making them smile. The 7-year-old me totally got that.
Even at times when I hadn’t fully embraced the role, I’ve routinely seen myself as an outsider in every stage of my life. As a kid, I saw parallels between myself and the characters of the film because of their failure to fit in and their subsequent desire for acceptance. This helped me realize I could deal with my own perceived social isolation in a similar manner: through humor. I loved the idea of making people laugh, and from that point on I made a conscious effort to do just that.
Adopting this mentality didn’t solve my ongoing struggle to fit in with what I perceived as the norm, but it gave me the opportunity to embrace it. All I wanted to do was to make others feel the way that movie made me feel. This mentality has stuck with me throughout my entire life, and even when I watch this movie today, I still get that same charge I got when I first saw The Muppet Movie.
As I’ve gotten older, it’s felt like there have been fewer and fewer instances in which a piece of art has changed my life. One can only assume, based on the connections formed between art and meaning, that our ability to create these connections and form these parallels becomes stifled by a diminishing imagination. We begin to increasingly place a larger emphasis on the face value of things rather than establishing a deeper context to associate with the piece.
A conflict I’ve been struggling with lately has been my tendency to ignore my imagination and evaluate art purely based on whether or not it is “good” or “bad”. Art is such a spectacular thing because of its ability to belong to anyone.
So I urge you to go out there and create some meaning in this world. Let your imagination run wild, and don’t be afraid to enjoy anything. Don’t just accept things at face value. Challenge yourselves to find deeper meanings and turn it into something that you can call yours.
With that said: What was your first piece of life-changing art?