Flowers are Spectrum-Colored. People are Weird.
And Nothing You Say Can Change My Mind.
And she said, “Flowers are red.”
“Flowers are red young man / Green leaves are green / There’s no need to see flowers any other way / Than the way they always have been seen.”
She’s a teacher, a character in a late 1970s song by Harry Chapin, speaking to a little boy on his first day of school.
“There are so many colors in the rainbow / So many colors in the morning sun / So many colors in the flower and I see every one.”
Chapin’s song laments an educational system that teaches kids to see things in black and white (or in this case, only red) rather than all the colors of the rainbow. The teacher admonishes what she sees as an impudent student who fills in flowers with purple and yellow and green and pink and red and orange and shades of them all.
And she said, “Weird is bad.”
She was a teacher, talking to one of my kids.
My daughter and her classmates were working on a project, and as part of it they were calling out positive words. “Weird!” my daughter shouted.
‘No, no, weird is a negative word,” the teacher scolded.
“Not in my family,” my daughter said.
“Weird is negative to most people, and nothing you can say will ever convince me it’s not,” the teacher said. “Now, someone give me another word …”
Unspoken, but strongly implied: “And that’s the end of it!”
A little background …
We celebrate weird in our house. Off-beat humor, different ways of looking at things, wild notions, ponderings that lead unexpected directions, meanings that take on different meanings over time and a delightful focus on the world’s minutia. Laughing at what would never be funny to anyone else because of inside jokes and shared experiences. Just plain laughing out loud.
It makes the mundane rich.
So, yeah, we’re weird.
Weird is different. Fun. Unexpected. Surprising, like a peanut-butter-n-cucumber sandwich.
The alternative — normal — is the human equivalent of “meh.” Milquetoast. Bland. Boring. Like meat and potatoes, even if they are good once in a while.
What’s “normal,” anyway? Or “weird,” for that matter? One person’s junk is another’s treasure; one person’s weird is another’s normal.
It could have been like this, instead.
What if the teacher had said, “Hmmmmm, that’s interesting. Why is that? Let’s talk about it for a minute.” Imagine the discussion that might have followed.
My hope is teachers, and all kinds of people for that matter, think about underlying messages before we open our mouths to fire off snap judgments. I hope that, more often, we can be like the second teacher in the song:
“… the little boy went to another school / And this is what he found / The teacher there was smilin’ / She said / Painting should be fun/ And there are so many colors in a flower / So let’s use every one.”
Sadly, the first teacher had already beaten the joy and wonder out of the little boy. He replies, in a sad voice:
“Flowers are red, green leaves are green / There’s no need to see flowers any other way / Than the way they always have been seen.”
Let’s celebrate all the differences, possibilities and potential of this wondrously diverse world. “Let’s use every one.”
Let’s be weird.