There was once an Artist who believed in people. He believed that every single person who lived had within them one great masterpiece, a Soul Painting, and he devoted his life to this creed. As an in demand artist of considerable talent he could have committed himself to his work and lived in fair comfort for the rest of his days, but he forsook such things to travel, be with people and pass on the message of the Soul Painting.
One day the Artist met a woman whom no-one had ever believed in. She was enchanted by the Artist and his message of the Soul Painting. Although the wounds were still too fresh and raw for her to believe in herself, she dared to believe in his belief and began to paint. It took her many years but eventually she had finished her Soul Painting. It was strikingly beautiful, tragic and unique; one of the most amazing works of art that anyone had ever seen. During this time the woman had learned to love the Artist and his message and devoted the rest of her life to spreading the story of the Soul Painting. Wherever she went people clamoured to see her. Many were amazed by her story, many more captivated by her beautiful Soul Painting.
One of the men who heard her speak wanted more than anything to possess his own Soul Painting. He had heard her talk about the Artist and his belief in her which had led to her painting but he was too afraid and intimidated by her amazing Soul Painting to pick up a paintbrush himself. “I could never paint anything as good as her.” he told himself, torn between his desire and his doubt. One day he had an idea and, at a time when no-one was watching, he took out his camera and snapped a good photo of the woman’s Soul Painting. He took the camera home, printed out the biggest, best quality copy of the Soul Painting that he could afford and had it framed. He told his friends of the Artist and invited them to come and see his own Soul Painting. His friends visited his home and were awestruck and touched by the beautiful masterpiece on his wall. They too wanted their own Soul Painting. The man only knew of one way to pass on the magic of the Soul Painting, so he invited his friends to take their own photo of his photo and then it could be their own Soul Painting. His friends readily agreed, as it seemed an easy way to get a masterpiece.
The friends took their photos home and showed their friends, who in turn asked to take a photo of the photo of the photo. They, in turn, invited their friends to take a photo of the photo of the photo of the photo and so it went. With each layer of photos the detail and beauty of the original painting was distorted further and further until there was a crowd of individuals each clutching photos showing nothing more than an ugly splodge of random colours. The beauty had been lost a long time ago. Over time the number of people wanting to take photos declined and declined. Every now and then another person would be convinced to take a photo of one of the photos but whatever their motivation, it was now never because of the beauty of the Soul Painting.
One day the Artist will travel from town to town crying out “Bring me your Soul Paintings” and he will be crowded by a mob of people waving grubby, crumpled polaroids shouting “Master, Master, look at my Soul Painting, my beautiful Soul Painting!” and the Artist will look at them and say “Get away from me. I never knew you.”