I was walking past a bus stop about a year ago, and there in front of the bench (which was all this bus stop consisted of) was a blue graffito. I saw that it was blue, that it was clearly made with a stencil, and I kept walking.
When I actually realized what I’d seen, I doubled back. Indeed, there on the ground in royal blue spray-paint was a robot–think Optimus Prime, who is pictured at right–with these four words underneath:
Be Your Own Protagonist
I took a picture with my cellphone. And for the last year that picture has been the background on my phone, a little reminder whenever I flip the phone open to place a call or use the calculator.
Others have seen it, but they don’t seem to understand. Or perhaps they do. But “Be your own protagonist” strikes me still as among the most profound graffiti ever to have been sprayed onto the sidewalk.
There are so many messages conveyed in those four words. It could mean that you should turn of the television, get off the couch and go about living a life worthy of the dramas you would otherwise be watching.
It could mean that you should recognize that you–like most protagonists–are far more powerful and important than you realize. That you really are bound for great things even while it may not look that way at the time.
It could mean that you should begin to root for yourself, as you root for your favorite superhero. After all, your self doubt serves no one but the evil antagonists of your world.
It could mean that while you may be going through seemingly impossible trials today, it’s only because you–like the classical hero–have a brighter and more important future ahead. And that you’ll be better able to meet that future because of these trials.
I wonder sometimes how the artist–yes I’m comfortable calling this act of vandalism art–intended for it to be read. Maybe they meant it one of the ways I’ve thought of. Maybe they meant in the more absurd ways I sometimes want to interpret it. Like that we should all realize that we’re robots and embrace that fact. Or maybe that we should all set out to live out our most absurd dreams of–benevolent of course–world domination.
However they meant it. I’m glad to have found it. And I want you to know, Ms. Artist, that I try every single day, to do as you recommend. And I’m certainly thankful that you were bold enough to recommend it.