Our Curate, Jo Robinson has words of wisdom during these difficult times.
As we enter 2021 this picture by the artist and writer Charlie Mackesy seems very appropriate.His book —‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’— was a popular Christmas gift in 2019 and sold over 1.4 million copies spending 55 weeks on the Sunday Times bestsellers list. I wonder how many of you gave or received it? I’m sure that when Charlie wrote it he had no idea just how relevant it would be for the unprecedented events of 2020 and indeed 2021!
The book is full of simple cartoons which illustrate profound conversations between four friends – a boy, a mole a fox and a horse. They remind me of the stories and pictures of Winnie the Pooh although Charlie’s book is less of a story and more of a conversation – little tender exchanges where the characters are vulnerable and kind to each other showing what love and true friendship is about. Anyhow, this isn’t meant to be a book review and I don’t want to give too many spoilers! But I’d like to share a little bit about what I have found out about Charlie.
‘if this storm is making you tired…
…storms get tired too…
…so hold on.’
Charlie is primarily an artist. His pictures hang in the homes of the rich and famous including Whoopi Goldberg and Sting, but they also hang in hospital wards around our country. You may have seen him on the BBC News* which showed how he has been encouraging front line workers with drawings and special messages.
But Charlie is not only a talented artist he is evidently quite a sought-after speaker too. What makes him so enjoyable to listen to is the way he doesn’t take himself too seriously — he’s very self-effacing. I watched him give a Ted Talk** about art —wearing flipflops, with unkempt hair and his two dogs wandering up on the stage — and he talked about how he gives art classes to those living with Alzheimers. Charlie explained that it isn’t the artistic results that are important, but rather; ‘my intention was for them to enjoy each other, the process, connection, shared vulnerability, … it’s one of the greatest privileges I’ve ever had in my life…to encourage someone that it’s okay to make a mess… and to help people find their voice…vulnerability begins with making a mess together, what you get is connection, then you get communication, then you get belonging, you get all these things that society seems to be losing.’ Charlie is more about accepting people and helping them build community in the mess of life than he is about producing masterpieces.
This reminds me of art therapy classes we did with abused girls in Asia. They were asked to draw a memory from childhood, and I remember one girl drew herself and then holding the paintbrush in a tight fist scrubbed over her picture with black paint. She couldn’t put her experiences into words, but she was starting to express them, and she did that in a group —which was very brave thing to do. The acceptance and support of the group was so important in her process of healing.
‘When have you been at your strongest?’ asked the boy.
‘When I have dared show my weakness.’ said the horse.
‘The bravest thing you can do is to ask for help.’
Charlie’s art is an expression of God’s presence in his life. One of his paintings is simply entitled Known, and it came out of an experience he had of God: “There was one day when I was on my bike crossing a bridge in London, and it lasted about 11 seconds,” he remembered. “But it was this kind of; ‘You’re known, you’re loved, God exists and He loves you, He knows you, you’re known, you’re fully known, you’re fully known.'”***
‘Sometimes your mind plays tricks on you. It can tell you you’re no good, that it’s all hopeless. But remember this; you are loved and important and you bring things to the world no-one else can.’
So, as we find ourselves in this challenging time, remember how far we have come, reach out and encourage others, be brave and ask for help and most of all remember that you are loved.
Rev Jo Robinson
The quotes were from Charlie’s Book The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse published by Penguin, or from his Facebook page. The rest of the material you can find if you google:
* Charlie Mackesy Ted talk
** Charlie Mackesy BBC news 16th December
***Charlie Mackesy CBN News
More talks at – Charlie Mackesy HTB and new drawings and quotes are regularly posted on his Facebook page.