I entered the Army upon graduating from high school. I was seventeen years old. How I ended up in the Army is a long story. Sometimes one gets swept up by irresistible forces. Suffice it to say that if the problems of two people don't amount to a hill of beans in this world, that goes double if we're talking about about just ONE person. That's just simple math.
Sergeant R. was a bit of a grouch. His responsibility was to keep us troops in line (literally, at the morning formation) and impart unto us such words of wisdom as armies have been distilling ever since the ancient Egyptians discovered how to brew beer.
So he would reveal to us bits and pieces of knowledge that were bound to come in handy some day. You know, little things, like, we were the sorriest excuses for soldiers he ever saw. Which puzzled me, since when a G.I. is standing at attention, he has few degrees of freedom to express contrition with his body language.
So, generally speaking (I'm not sure if that is an intended pun or not), Sergeant R. was an unpleasant person to be around.
One day we stood at ease as Sergeant R. conducted an inspection of our living quarters in the barracks. There wasn't much to inspect. All I had was a bunk, a footlocker, a regular locker, and a laundry bag. (For some reason, to pass inspection a laundry bag could not actually have laundry in it.)
Sergeant R. opened my regular locker, which was big enough to have a clothes rack from which to hang dress uniforms or starched khakis. What caught Sarge's eye was not the highly commendable order and neatness of my belongings. The first thing he noticed was what I had taped to the inside of my locker door.
No, it wasn't porn, or pinups of tantalizing lasses reminding us of what we were missing back home. Instead I had taped up letters sent to me by my youngest brother, age six.
The letters were my brother's crayon drawings of what he imagined I was doing in the Army. The central stick figure in these pictures was supposed to be me, firing a machine gun or hurling grenades or something in the middle of some furious battle. I'm sure my brother was striving for realism in what he drew, but him not being an art prodigy, it was pretty much what you'd expect from a six year old. Or from Willem de Kooning, for that matter.
I could see the visibly startled reaction on Sergeant R.'s face. "What's this," he asked.
Without hesitating a moment, I replied to the Sergeant. But before I tell you what I said, you first have to know something about me.
When I am not punning, I have a very dry sense of humor, and a deadpan poker-face to go with that. In fact, a medical professional who has known me for a long time once told me I have "the flattest affect" of anyone he knows. (I'm not sure a flat affect is a good thing to have, since it seems to be a diagnostic criterion for several illnesses or personality disorders listed in the DSM-IV.)
Anyway, back to the Sergeant's question. "What's this?" he asked.
Without missing a beat, I told him matter-of-factly, "That's my artwork. I like to draw with crayons. If you look at the pictures, I think you'll agree that I have been getting better over time."
Again, I saw a visible startle-reaction from Sergeant R. Here is where having a deadpan expression comes in handy. It allowed military formality to be observed while inside, we both knew I was being facetious. To my surprise, the Sergeant played along, offering some suggestions that he felt would be beneficial to my growth as an artist!
Now here's the astonishing thing. From that day forward, we all noticed a change in Sarge's demeanor. He seemed to lighten up. He eased up on us considerably. At morning formations he would even sneak in snide and humorous remarks at the Army's expense. We still had our duties, and he still gave the orders, but he became a more pleasant person to be around.
Why the transformation in Sergeant R.? You might say that the silliness of my answer made him realize the absurdity of it all, and he then saw us as human beings like himself.
But I like to think it was the power of the arts. If a six-year-old's crayon drawings can soften the heart of Sergeant R., imagine what you, artists of DeviantArt, can achieve with your own art!
I hope you find this inspirational.