I had the unique experience of going to the movies with my wife and parents. It wasn’t unique because I went to the movies. It was unique because of the movie that we went to go see.
The name of the movie was “Greater” and the plot centered around the life of University of Arkansas football star, Brandon Burlsworth. The movie had a tremendous meaning, but for me it was particularly special because some of my artwork was used as props in a significant part of the movie. There is an antagonist that is carving a piece of wood throughout the movie, and I was the one who actually created the carvings off-screen. Also an image of the Burlsworth Trophy appeared in the movie, and of course I had sculpted that years earlier for and annual awards ceremony.
Although it was fun for me to see some of my artwork on the big screen and even my name in the credits, what made the movie so special was the fact that over the years of having done these projects, I got to know the Burlsworth family and the producer of the movie Brian Reindl. They have become friends. I became aware of the life of Brandon Burlsworth from the people who loved him the most. I have met the men who played football with him at the yearly trophy ceremonies where they award the most superior football walk-on in the NCAA.
To me the movie was special because it was a true story about a man who touched the lives of the people that I know. But then it dawned on me as I looked at others in the movie theater (which was full by the way) that Brandon Burlsworth and his loved ones mean something to an entire community and will continue to mean something to many for generations to come. His dream of improving those around him lives on in the hearts of his loved ones and through the organization of the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation.
I pondered what an impact one can have by showing true character while sharing their talents. Here was a theatre full of people that likely didn’t know Brandon personally but somehow felt connected enough to him to pay money and learn about his life. All he did, from a completely unemotional perspective, was play a college sport well and live a great life. If you think about it from a critical standpoint, football is just a game where two groups of men move a piece of leather up and down a field. In terms of what is accomplished, you wouldn’t even need the men to do that. Just pay a teenager to walk up and down a field for an hour or so and the same thing gets accomplished, as far as the football is concerned. My uncle Wayne even used to call football “dog pile on the rabbit.”
At times during my career I have had to fight off the temptation that creating my artwork is meaningless, or that all I do is push around clay and that my artwork is nothing more than metal that has been shaped to look like something. And society often treats the art field that way by what people chose to purchase during tough economic times. Someone will most often buy food and pay the electricity bill before adorning their home with bronze sculptures. Artwork is not often a top-of-mind priority when it comes to a person’s daily concerns. This can leave an artist feeling that their work is of little importance for the betterment of humanity.
So where does artwork and football fit into a society’s priorities. Watching the Brandon Bursworth movie helped to reinforce in my mind that the meaning of our existence can even be found within a game or in the movement of clay. Within the framework of any honorable career a person has the opportunity to impact others. In fact each person on this earth has been blessed with a life that is made of things that they do… Go to school, go to work…play golf…feed the pigs…whatever. I have decided that the question of our influence on humanity has nothing to do with where we work or what we work at, as long we understand that how we work can influence those within our sphere of contacts, and then exponentially grow within others lives. Our positive character and actions that we manifest while we are laboring is what create the poetry of our lives and causes a grown man like myself to cry in a movie theatre. It is what makes us want to be better, and it is what people will remember for generations.
My grandfather, Darrell Stringfellow, was a painter. He never earned money for his painting expertise, but his paintings hang in the homes of many of his family members and friends. He was a quiet and loving man who expressed his love of God and others through moving pigmented oils around on a stretched canvas. One day after my grandfather died my grandmother and I were going through some of his old paintings that had not made it into the homes of his family. (Usually only the more iconic landscapes were given to his family.) I ran across a small painting that apparently he had just done for himself, or maybe it was just a practice piece. It was a painting that depicted the view from within a grove of aspen trees. I turned the painting over to see a date or something. What I found was a comment that he had written to express what he felt about the subject matter. He simply expressed “There is a church-like feel in a grove of quaking aspens.” Here was a man who regularly attended church, but seemed to best define his relationship with God through communing in nature and family relationships, and then he showed his gratitude for both by recording it on canvas and sharing his gratitude with others. He will not soon be forgotten. His love lives on in his paint strokes.
The point I suppose that I am trying to make is that life has meaning. The things that we do during that life have meaning as far as we utilize our occupations to bless others. I want to again thank the Burlsworth Foundation, the Burlsworth family, Brian Reindl and Greater Producions, for having meaning in my life. Your legacies that you create now will go on for generations to come. Each of our lives is a canvas, a lump of clay, or a football game, etc. We just need to paint it, sculpt it, or play it.
In Honor of Brandon Burlsworth, for a life well lived…GO HOGS!