Flowers are Red

Flowers are Red

I was thinking about moments in my life that had a profound impact on me. The one I had was in my freshman year Psychology 101 class at Cornell University with Dr. James Maas. He was famous in the educational space for psychology and held one of the largest lecture class size in the country. 2000 students at one time at Cornell's main concert hall, Bailey Hall. 

I remember during one class he showed us as video clip from the Tonight Show with Harry Chapin on the song Flowers are Red. I remember listening, and towards the end, feeling tears streaming down my face. I was so touched and felt pretty emotionally raw. The entire concert hall was silent, a heaviness felt throughout the massive space. You could hear other sniffles. At the time my now husband took the class with me and I remember his expression stoic and sad. The song...was about conformity.  It is about how our society expects everybody to conform to a "normal" image, thus squashing any creativity we may have later on in life. 

Here are the lyrics:

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw
And the teacher said.. What you doin' young man
I'm paintin' flowers he said
She said,
It's not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red
There's a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You've got to show concern for everyone else
For you're not the only one

And she said
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

But the little boy said
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

Well the teacher said
You're sassy
There's ways that things should be
And you'll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me

And she said
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

But the little boy said
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

The teacher put him in a corner
She said
It's for your own good
And you won't come out 'til you get it right
And all responding like you should
Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said, and he said

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

Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And 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

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said
And he said

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.

The way he sang it, just made you ache for the little boy in the song. You wanted him to NOT conform, to not listen to that teacher that told him to color the flowers red and the leaves green. You wanted to protest against the narrow minded view of that teacher. There are people that will want you to conform. Of course in some cases it is very necessary, such as rules in the workplace, business ethics, morales and just being a decent person.

But when it comes to creativity, a different way of thinking, don't ever ever squash that. Don't let anyone tell you what you CAN'T do, to not try, to not dream. I also have to have faith that as decent human beings we can celebrate our differences in culture, backgrounds, education, upbringing, view on life and our inherent values and give each other the respect to express such views, regardless of what side you are on.

In your work or personal life, paint ALL the colors in the rainbow and in the morning sun. Try things that are new, open your mind to others and sometimes....somtimes it's also okay to color outside the lines too. 

 

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