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February 21, 2012

an essay on the similarities between graffiti and the ribwort plantain


  The ribwort plantain, or plantago lanceolata, is a healing plant. When consumed as a tea, it opens the airways and clears up congestion while cleansing the kidneys in a soothing manner. When applied to an external wound, its antiseptic qualities will speed up the healing process and reduce the chance of scarring. For these reasons and for many more, plantago lanceolata has been used as a healing plant since before the dawn of civilization. In caves inhabited by early homo sapiens, we find remnants of ribwort next to remnants of ocher, and of iron oxide, and of other materials used to make pigments.


  We might deduce what ancient homo sapiens did with the plantain, but did he do with pigments? He used them to beautify his environment. He drew with them upon his favorite rocks and trees, and he covered the walls of difficult to reach underground caverns with detailed pictures of his daily life in a process that would today be called graffiti, or street art.


  We have established that in graffiti lie the roots of humankind's artistic passion, and that street art is the wellspring of its genius. But, you ask, how else does this ancient practice resemble the healing plantain? Both appear as if overnight in underused and neglected places such as empty lots and abandoned buildings, where they thrive and spread. Great bunches of healing plantago are mowed down and landfilled weekly, their healing powers ignored, whereas great patches of street art are torn down and painted over daily, their chaotic beauty lost forever. Both benefit all who take of them, for they give of themselves freely and without ado, yet neither requires attention or maintenance, since each can damn well take care of itself. Both can cure the ills that plague humankind, with ribwort attending to the body's needs, and graffiti exciting the soul. So enmeshed are these two with one another, so vital are they to the vitality of our species, that they will be with us always, or at least until the last woman breathes the last breath.


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