There are a few members of the press who are also members of the Walking Gallery. Over the past year I have asked many to join us in this movement, but there are those who feel they cannot. Some seem afraid to share the power of their story. Some feel constrained by the rules of their profession. The latter reason is used by many in the press to explain their inability to join us.
I always respond, “It is your story.” Being a member of an unbiased press does not deny you the right to speak about your personal life. I am glad Don Fluckinger decided to join the gallery and tell us his story. Sadly, on June 4th when we gathered in DC, I did not have his jacket painting finished. He spent that night wearing a jacket I quickly emblazoned with the downloading spinner and the written word “downloading.” Quite a few in the crowd chuckled at Don’s endlessly downloading jacket.
I am glad Don’s jacket recently finished its download. Here is “Folding.”
Don is a reporter with SearchHealthIT. He writes articles and interviews people who work within the world of health policy and HIT (Health Information Technology.) Much of the content that Don must parse is a heady brew of legislation mixed with vender confusion. Don creates clear and concise articles for CIO’s and CMIO’s to understand this labyrinthine tangle of law and commerce. I can attest that his writing is nuanced yet clear and even a data access artist can enjoy the content. Don reminds me of a baker, folding one dense ingredient into other lighter elements until a consistent tone is reached.
But Don is more than his writing; he is a father to a wonderful boy. Don’s son Patrick is what some would term twice exceptional; he is very smart but has some processing issues. Up until quite recently Aspergers Syndrome was the clinical term used to define him. This term will soon be folded into the broader autism spectrum disorders heading in the new edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Many in the Aspergers community are quite upset by this change. They had been labeled by others, yet had come to embrace their difference and their title, often calling themselves aspies.
Patrick loves to fold origami paper into intricate designs. He has even created a little origami garden for his father’s desk. So within this painting Don holds an amazingly complex origami shape known as a truncated icosahedron. Patrick cannot fold this yet, but he is already trying. If you look at the center of this mass of folded paper you will see the letters DSM. Here is an image of autism spectrum disorders defined in paper; it hard to see which paper folds press in and which out. Only one thing is clear about this bright shape as it folds in upon itself: it is labeled DSM.
Below father and son an origami paper airplane flies, for Don himself has a title within the DSM. Don, the brilliant reporter that I have spoken with in cities throughout our great nation, is afraid to fly. Every time he boards plane he fights against himself and his own anxiety. I have always appreciated my conversations with Don, but now I doubly cherish them knowing the stress he experiences every time he flies.
A message flutters behind the origami plane. Upon the billowing streamer is one Japanese character: “to fold.” Folding is such a powerful word in our world of HIT. Does it refer to that amazing crowd sourced protein folding project: Foldit? Or perhaps folding refers to the demise of many start-ups Don and I have seen in the last three years at health tech events. Does folding represent the future of paper? Are we heading into a world where paper is prized more for its ability to hold a three dimensional shape, rather than a thought?
Or is folding something one little boy does really well? Perhaps we do not always need words to send messages on paper. Sometimes the shape of itself can speak louder than any spoken word or bold font. Sometimes the folding itself can say I love you.