In my artistic life so far I have sold more paintings than the one that Van Gogh sold in his life, so that makes me feel good about creating artwork. On the other hand, I have created lots and lots of artwork that has not sold, and their lack of going forth into the world has sometimes made me wonder about their worth. Writing a book that no one wants to publish or creating a painting that no one wants to purchase can make the creator feel as if he is creating orphans that are destined to go unwanted. So what gives something value?
I have come to the conclusion that whether or not others assign a monetary value to what one produces does not matter. The value inherent in something may not be blatantly apparent to those who did not create it, and might need to be searched for by those who come across it. Just because something glitters does not mean that it has real value; in the same way, a dull, uncut gemstone may have great inherent value awaiting discovery. Even a homeless, cast-off person, has value.
On my recent trip to Hilo I had a chance to experience some homeless in a way different from those I encountered on O’ahu. In my limited experience, a goodly number of the Honolulu homeless have been rather aggressive, either in demanding money from you or threatening you when you pass too close by their tents on the sidewalks. The Hilo homeless, however, were very different. A few sat along the side of busy sidewalks with a sign asking for help. A few tried to earn a little money by sweeping or washing the sidewalk in front of various stores. None of them took the Honolulu approach of accosting and demanding. While I saw some homeless sleeping in the QueenLili’uokalaniGarden, they were very few in number. I never encountered any taking over the sidewalks with tents. The demeanor of the Hilo homeless was such that I did not feel threatened by them, and not feeling threatened by them I was able to feel some compassion for them, which provoked my desire to help them; the Honolulu homeless, however, provoked a wariness in myself.
Obviously, because they are people, the homeless have value, but like the unpublished book, the un-purchased painting and the uncut gemstone that value might not be so blatantly apparent in that the homeless don’t glitter and shine. When I run into them their being as they are gives birth to questions in me: Do you see me? Do you see into me and not just my exterior? Am I known by you? Or do you make me invisible?