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In which John Green discusses the creation of things, including but not limited to the world's largest ball of paint. Ultimately, I think art and writing and most human endeavors are best imagined as huge, sprawling collaborations, and not as endeavors that rely upon the efforts of a few individual geniuses. Creativity belongs to everyone!

Footage from the world's largest ball of paint is from this episode of Artland:

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Good morning Hank it's Tuesday

So I've been thinking a lot about the world's largest ball of paint, which is located in the tiny town of Alexandria Indiana. Side note, it can't possibly be a coincidence that so many of the world's largest balls are located in the United States. Like the world's largest ball of popcorn is an Iowa, the world's largest ball of stamps is in Nebraska, there are several competing world's largest balls of twine from Kansas to Minnesota but it's the ball of paint that interests me most. So back in 1977 this guy Mike Carmichael painted a baseball with his three-year-old son and then they kept painting it for like hundreds of coats and then they started to invite neighbors and friends over to paint the ball. Eventually strangers showed up and Mike would invite them to add layers of paint and now 40 years later there are more than 25,000 layers of paint on this baseball, it weighs two and a half tons. It has its own little house, and every year more than a thousand strangers show up to add layers of paint to it, which by the way is free, Mike even provides the paint.

Anyway I think the world's largest ball of paint has something to tell us about the creation of art. Like usually we imagine art as a story of individual geniuses. Right you know Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, or whomever uses like their innate brilliance to expand the human landscape. Now sometimes we acknowledge that circumstances play a role in the emergence of great art. Like for instance for Mark Twain to become Mark Twain he had to grow up on the river that separated America from itself, during the war that separated America from itself. But mostly we think the work is done not by the times but by these heroic individuals who like push us forward and lift us up. Now to be clear I do believe in genius from Mark Twain, to Jane Austen, to Toni Morrison there are some artists who are just uncommonly great. But I don't think genius is a simple trait like having brown eyes. I think it's more of a continuum like having empathy, and also I think the worship of individual genius in art and elsewhere is ultimately misguided. Like Thomas Edison didn't invent the light bulb, it was being invented all around him by lots of people and he added innovations to it, and Isaac Newton didn't discover gravity he pushed our awareness of it to new places.

I think lots of us, and I include myself in this by the way, worry that, whatever our work is, it won't matter because it won't be remembered or because it won't rise to the level of genius. But maybe that makes individuals too important. Maybe in the end art and life are more like the world's largest ball of paint. You carefully choose your colors and then you add your layer as best you can and then eventually it gets painted over. It gets painted again and again until there is no visible remnant of your layer of paint and really no one knows about it except for you and maybe a few people close to you to whom you told the story. But that doesn't mean your layer of paint is irrelevant because it permanently, if slightly, changed the larger sphere. Right like the world's largest ball of paint looks nothing like a painted baseball and you're part of the reason. Whether you made a YouTube video that only a few people saw, or wrote a short story that only a few people read you've still played a role in shaping this many splendored ball of paint we're all living with. So you add your coat of paint or hopefully several coats and hope that you've made the world more beautiful. And yes eventually you will be painted over but you still matter.

Hank thanks so much to you and all the VidCon staff and volunteers for an amazing weekend in Amsterdam at VidCon Europe. I'm going to enjoy a couple days of vacation and then get back to painting.

Hank, I'll see you on Friday