"You'll receive an F."
A failing grade.
No questions asked. No consideration given. Automatic F.
That was the policy of my college photography professor. A portrait with a brick wall background would receive an automatic failing grade. The syllabus stated it in bold print. Dutifully, or doubtfully as we were, we asked about it none-the-less. His verbal answer as recorded above was as straightforward as his written statement.
Confounded. There we sat. Students in turmoil. A professor who meant what he wrote on his syllabus even though we asked nicely. A man who challenged us to find more creative backgrounds than brick walls. Where in the world would we take portraits other than in front of our ubiquitous collegiate brick walls?!
Imagine our surprise when one simple rule forced us to see everything that was already all around us. Our prof-imposed creativity forced us into the kaleidoscope. Shapes, colors, variety, texture, richness. Off the campus and into life. Both our photos and our world views saw benefit.
Yet for many, one rule defines everything. The suspects are always "them." The "other." That opposing political party is stupid. That different race or people is bad. That other religious group is evil. One rule builds walls of ignorance, prejudice, fear, and hatred.
Sometimes such people emerge from their walls to emote. Saying or writing ugly things full of half-truths or outright lies. Organizing or marching in protest. And at the worse, using their walls to bring violence down upon those they see as other.
Ignorance. Prejudice. Fear. Hatred. Extremism.
We don't need such walls. The world is more beautiful without them.
Back to my college photography class, you may have wondered how many portraits were turned in with brick walls? One. She forgot. The prof did not. F.
If only our world had a professor with one rule: don't have brick walls of hate; love one another as I have loved you.