I am a caricature of myself.
I think this happened about 4 years ago, but I have only realized the power of it in the past year or so. We all become caricatures of ourselves either early on through a focused life or, eventually, age. Caricatures are at their core simplified versions of people. The person drawing caricatures on a touristy pier, exaggerates a feature of a person that already stands out: a nose, or set of ears. Parts of a personality that add to a caricature are a little more varied depending on audience; the grandfather who berates those that use lawnmowers or the extravagant artist who poses and vamps at a party.
But what caricatures are (and I am now only going to be speaking about the personality portion of caricature, as the physical piece is of less interest to me, as the physical piece illustrates more the interplay between caricature and stereotype which I’ll get to later) are access points to a person. Caricatures represent a certain aspect of a persons accessibility. A lull in the conversation with Grandpa? Bring up lawnmowers. Need to start conversation with the artist? Speak of their excellent taste in X or Y, it doesn’t matter which. But what is interesting is that these avenues of access can either be walls or entryways; a ludicrous, yet inviting lake, or a mirage on the distant horizon. A wall created with caricature is something like looking at a painting at an extremely oblique angle, where the only thing you can ascertain is that there is a lot of blue in it. An entryway created with caricature is standing someone dead center in front of that same painting, cutting all the blue out of it, and then tossing it over them like confetti. And, as with most things, it comes down to intent.
For me, as I’ve noticed strong parts of my personalty roaring with blissful ignorance on my surface, I see these pieces tie back into many parts of me that, I find, are thoughtful and kind. Maybe even mild mannered. And these are parts of me that sit near my origin where the axis of my meaning come to a dense singular point. Me, as a caricature, is something accessible and open to many people, even though the image presented is maybe incomplete. They see the facets that are available, clearly marked and illustrated with hand gestures and loud vocalizations, and if they choose, they come take hold.
And that really is the battle as one becomes totally focused on path or passively becomes more and more isolated through age or apathy: to see our caricature and anchor it (sometimes by long rope) to our purpose and meaning. Because, I think, if we continue forward and don’t realize this, we doom ourselves to swim down on the anchor line of our caricature only to find a frayed end of a rope sweeping a desolate sea floor.
And I want more. I want to not just notice my caricature, I want to amplify it. I want to wear it proudly like an ill fitted suit. My fame and age will come as they choose, but I’ve arrived early with my caricature. With cocky cartoon swagger and banter with a tinge of depth that I believe to be unparalleled. If we're all ending up there anyway, I might as well get on board early and make this ship as sailable as possible. And make it a vessel that invites all to come aboard and speak of the sun’s passage through the sky, and the pattern of white caps against hidden constellations.
Thinking about caricature the last few weeks also made me think a lot about stereotype. In a way caricature is the stereotype of one, while stereotype is the caricature of many. I mentioned before, talking about physical caricatures, that I notice they usually devolve into a viewers personal or cultural stereotypes. Things of note about someone usually end up inline with how they are seen as being different from the viewer. The beauty of caricature is that it is the parry to stereotype’s jab, as well-intentioned caricature ties deeply into someones being; into their power and strength. But some people try to take the minimalism of caricature and use it to throw people into buckets and defaults; into their pre-packaged stereotypes. A caricature, though, is the will to dissolve into ones environment with a voice that is uniquely and powerfully their own; to become open and accessible, if one chooses it.
I’ve decided to choose.