Remaining children takes courage

A few weeks ago I presented my book «Fai Fiorire il Cielo» at Open library in Milan. We discussed about many of the topics I write about in the book. From labor to economy, from creativity to future through movies, music and art.
Among the guests I also involved the artist PAO. I talk about him in the second part of my book, where I highlight the importance of seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary every day so that we can get value out of the potential that no one else can see. Just like Arthur Schopenhauer’s genius: «Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see». I think nowadays it is necessary to have this skill and we can develop it by working (or just having to do with) art and artists.
I have been working with PAO for more than ten years and one of the skills that had always made him an artist is the ability to see in urban objects, seemingly ordinary, something unique and absolutely extraordinary. Something that no one, indeed, can see. Let’s think about Milano, the city where he lives and works, wandering around the city, millions of people see every day the typical panettone-shaped parking bollard. But despite this, no one can see nothing but what the object is itself: a parking bollard. PAO instead saw in that gray and anonymous piece of cement a penguin and then he launched one of the most interesting expressions of public art in Italy. Obviously the artist’s vision did not stop at the parking bollard. In the last 14 years, he saw the portrait of Emperor Rudolf II by the painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo into a silo in the Piedmont countryside. He turned traffic lights into palm trees, lamp posts into daisies and then again into lollipops, water pumps into dogs, waste bin into pelicans, slides of the sidewalk into lemon slices, manholes into windows, barriers into zebras, chairs into mouths, bollards into sharks and public baths into cans of Campbell soup.
During the evening, I asked PAO how the idea of his penguin-bollard was born and he simply told me that the secret lies in having the courage to remain children. In having the courage not to lose the ability to imagine. If you are a child, it only takes a pencil to create a world, because in children’s eyes everything smiles. Even a gray and anonymous piece of cement.
Remaining children is not a sign of immaturity. It’s rather a sign of great maturity and seriousness. In his «Grammar of Fantasy», Italian writer Gianni Rodari invited us to have the courage to «dream big», to say no when necessary, to follow the duty we have to change the world for the better, without having to content ourselves with the mediocre deeds that leave everything just as it was before. Following this thought, the most courageous action that we can do as adults is to keep on imagining.
Quoting Matisse, imagination takes courage. It takes perseverance, self-confidence and, above all, depth. Imagining means not stopping at the first impression. It means having our own critical thinking in order to go beyond the stereotypes. It means never losing enthusiasm. It means always asking why. It means having the mind full of question marks and always searching for an answer (even if they are invented). It means believing in our ideas. Even when we are told that they are impossible.