Yuanhui, what sparked your interest in therapeutic arts?
Arts as a healing modality was a calling. I was nineteen, waiting to enter university, when I saw the biographical comedy-drama film ‘Patch Adams’ starring Robin Williams. It was a movie where Patch’s life was documented, from his early struggles with mental illness to his vocation as a doctor as well as his humanisation of the doctor-patient relationship through clowning, which is a medium for therapeutic art.
In the movie, there was a scene that struck me. Before he went to medical school, Patch admitted himself into a psychiatric ward. There was another elderly patient, Arthur Mendelson, who was somewhat eccentric but cerebral and intellectual. He held up Patch’s hand, and asked him: ‘How many do you see?’ Patch replied: ‘There are four fingers.’ And Arthur urged him to look at him and not focus on the problem. He said: ‘How many do you see? Look beyond the fingers, how many do you see?’ Patch eventually replied: ‘Eight.’
Arthur then said: ‘See what everyone else chooses not to see, out of fear or conformity or laziness. See the world anew, each day.’ This scene really got to me. What people show you may not really be what is inside them. People come in layers, like an onion, and what they show you is only one of the layers. A person who is struggling will have protection and coping mechanisms. What I want to do in life is to touch people at their authentic cores. There is a holy space within our hearts where the blueprints of our highest expressions lie. Sometimes, so numbed we are with surviving life that our hearts’ callings become something distant, even far fetched or unbelievable. For some of us, we dare not show up as ourselves, because of fear — a fear of what others would think, a fear of ‘how could I make a livelihood’. And then there are the many ‘what ifs’ — ‘what if I fail?’. But really, what are these fears, and where did they come from? It comes from a fear of deviation from socially acceptable norms and standards for success.
Through harnessing therapeutic art, what I hope is to awaken in children that inner divinity, that inner light. And in so doing, help children find their authenticity.
That is a noble goal, yet one that borders on grandiosity.
It may be noble, but not at all grandiose. It is a basic right to being human, and as our society slowly evolves, more of such ‘deviations’ and ‘authentic expressions’ are becoming increasingly socially acceptable.