I really like the word ‘woke’ as people use it today. It’s a relatively new slang- it couldn’t be more than five years since I first heard it. People who use it knows what it means, but I’d have a hard time describing it clearly. The closest synonym is probably enlightened, which is itself a word that is difficult to define. If you know, you know.

I had a conversation recently with a college student who came into the gallery to see my wife’s art. He was one of the ones who “got” her work, if that makes sense. They are the ones who stand for minutes in front of the same painting while everyone else is milling through the room around them. They find themselves speechless with a lump in their throat or they explode with a million questions or look for someone to hug. It’s amazing to watch- they recognize something magical and powerful in her art as it reaches in and triggers their emotional centers. This guy was one of the talkers.

Being an artist himself he marveled at the craft, recognizing that each of these pieces must have taken months, if not years, to create. He peppered me with technical questions about her process and technique that I could only answer with a shrug and a blank stare (“Black magic, maybe?”). He gaped at that painting for a good ten or fifteen minutes as we talked about art and my job and his school work. He wasn’t in a hurry, didn’t think about whether he was bothering me or taking up too much of my time, wasn’t looking for anything more than the experience of standing right there, right then. He even shared with me a very personal story about his family that the painting had made him think of before he hugged me and moved on.

That dude was woke.