The Life of Children

Tonight I had dinner with my stepmother and talked about the lives of children.

We are living in the wake of a school shooting, in a time of school shootings, in a country who's adults have accepted school shootings as an unfortunate, unchangeable element of American life. It has not been long since the last. It's not long until the next. And since Newtown, the light of optimism has long since set on the possibility of even the most meager of reform efforts (which, we must admit, calls for universal background checks are entirely meager). 

And yet, here we are, with the light of change rising again, not out of optimism, but out of necessity. The children are saying they are not safe under the current system. They are right. This culture that so fetishizes youth has proven itself unable to protect children, and while I am amazed by the bravery of these children, I am ashamed that the responsibility has fallen on high schoolers to teach politicians how to act like adults. These are children that have undergone an unspeakable trauma - now is their time for rest, for counseling, for time in silence, in confusion. For time to be kids who don't know how to make sense of this kind of tragedy. And yet they have taken this shooting as a mandate to take on the responsibility of change, out of desperation for their own lives. 

I support the students who will not enter their high schools until they have been made safe. And I support the educators who take active steps to support their students' political expression (is this not a fundamental part of training students to be good citizens). Were this high-school boycott to take off across the country, I believe it could enact extraordinary change. How proud I would be to speak in fifty years of the high school protests of 2018, that happened across the US and pressured lawmakers to radically reshape gun laws in America. 

To those who are protesting for their lives, my feeling is simple: shame that you must, and pride that you have, and continue to do so.

On the Weekend, New Revelations

This weekend had the air of a memory I will look back on as marking a conscious movement towards a new section of life. I went out both nights, with Sean the first and by myself the second (making new friends on both accounts), and while I felt little pressure to work (and didn't make a huge amount of progress on my outstanding projects), I realized a number of important things, both about myself, and about my work.

1. I began to realize ideas in my head for a number of projects. One is the electronic multimedia project I'm calling Night Walker. An EP of electronic music featuring formant-shifted vocals, and dark beats, centered around a character walking alone at night. A number of songs (perhaps starting with Be There) could have ambitious music videos - artistically shot night-time dance videos. Perhaps with some costuming (meeting Annie this week was really cool - I'd of course be beyond hyped if she came on to the project). 

Another is some sort of art share / zoo experience here in Richmond. We could host it in the theater lab - I could set up the space, and we could get works from various local RVA artists. Dancers, musicians, visual artists, poets, whatever. The point wouldn't even be the art. It would be in the creating of a space (and, hopefully, a community) that interfaced with art making in both a serious, and extremely welcoming way. Also as a vehicle for collaboration. Flash collaboration. 

I love this idea of my podcast as well. Having so many conversations these days about art-making, the reason we do it, what we're trying to get at. Just need to start whipping out the iPhone and recording them. Should figure out how to word that ask, but it's worth asking.

2. I expressed again to myself some of the things that I love, that I need in life. Socializing - meeting new people frequently and jumping between groups. Recognizing myself as having a dual social presence, being a leader and a witness at different times. That I adore being outside, and know that being in nature changes my perception of most things (for the better). That I adore dancing, and need to do it often. That I am smart. That I am looking for love - not necessarily romantic love - but I am actively searching for people who I feel I am similar to (I almost wrote deeply connect to - that list is quite long actually - the list of those like me is much smaller). That this takes time, and a great deal of openness. 

So exhausted now, though. Need a full nights sleep, and then start some real work tomorrow.

The Last Jedi, God Forbid

I wasn't that impressed.

That being said, I'm not sure I'd say I've really enjoyed any of the Star Wars films all that much if I'm being honest with myself. There's something that feels so childish about the black-and-white morality and infuriating about the focus-group-tested punch lines. Something vapid, pointless in the constant reaffirmations that the resistance was the spark of hope in a galaxy devoid of it (maybe the filmmakers needed that hope more than the galaxy itself). The visuals, however, were predictably stunning. Particularly the reds in the salt-world scene, and all the delightfully cute alien animals.

Oh yeah, and what was up with ALL of the machines that needed to be destroyed? The plot points seemed to revolve exclusively around the disarming and dismemberment of various technologically-advanced weapons. And the relationships felt empty or forced (Finn and his lady, for example, felt both). The one engaging (and potentially groundbreaking - we'll see) relationship dynamic was that between Ben (Kylo) and Rey. Here it felt that there was a real potential for change within both characters - the use of the relationship as catalyst for personal growth, in positive or negative directions. Finally, the impact of humans on one another - brought front and center. Wish there was more time spent on that relationship, rather than empty space battles (and perplexing supernatural sequences!!!).

Saw the film with Benji, Carson, and Mom. I found joy in talking with Benji (who sat next to me during the film) as it went on. More so than I have in the past. At least I had a partner with which to scorn the film's less-than-profound morality, in real time, as well as with whom I could gasp at the stunning reds and blues of space. There is, of course, a value to the awe-factor of impressive special effects. In fact, I believe it's enough to carry a film. But wielding the heirloom of one of the most successful film/crossover franchises in history requires more emotional ambition, rather than conservatism. There is a responsibility to that task, and I believe responsibility in the arts is aligned with ambition and risk more than it is conservatism. 

The Public

I'm finding it increasingly overwhelming to walk around Vienna. 

Today I visited the Leopold Museum. It's a place I adore. Schiele is my favorite artist, and I always enjoy their other exhibits. Today was hard, though. The line between artwork and public felt more blurred than ever. How can it not, walking past such vivid examples of human portraiture, locking eyes with such vivid humans. I feel the impulse to talk to each one of them, to smile and ask how their day has gone, to ask how Schiele touches them, if at all. But I don't. I didn't at all today. I loved the art, but I left frustrated by the public - perhaps it's myself I should be frustrated by. 

These days, I feel a wall of skepticism between those who I walk past on the street and myself. That I pose a danger to each and every one of them, a lack of trust, interest, and openness. In some ways, I feel it's warranted. Particularly from women (not to say that I believe myself to be dangerous, but that I understand the danger present in such a wide swath of men as to make the assessment logical). 

Still, when your primarily human relationship is to a public, rather than a person, it hurts. I want a relationship that's loving and mutual. Perhaps it can never come with a public. Or perhaps its a case of my father's adage: "you cannot love until you have been loved." Thus our role as people relating to a public, particularly as public figures, is to do just that - to love them. To enter into a relationship that will not be mutual. Where you are not engaging in the shared act of loving, but the solitary act of teaching love through doing. 

Obviously, the receiving of such love is a prerequisite for this work, and a number of other strong, close, and mutually loving relationships required to sustain it. I forget these easily - those closest to me who I let drift into the background when not physically present. It's something I'd like to work on. And I don't need many - two or three will do. Even that can hold enough love to sustain a life - and a life of giving.

Perhaps that was the hole today - that my recent weeks haven't been structured around a close four-person unit of mutual support, but a singular life looking for support from an unloving public. Thus it's worth being reminded: Your job is to give love to the public, not take it. Cultivate those close to you in taking up the difficult work of real love, and, in time, give it back to those around you. When you know the rivers of love surround you and do not fear their drying up, you'll have much less trouble extending love to others. Find a couple of close friends and I can bet you won't fear the smiling eye-contact at the Leopold anymore.

It would be a noble pursuit.