“We don’t have to do/be it all ourselves.” The emphasis is on “all.” Just do/be one. One small specific “thing.” And share that. This is the secret of creating art, communicating effectively–
of making a difference.
Went to a presentation tonight by photographer Jeff Sheng. The subject was Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell (i.e. the military policy on homosexuals) and I realize now, I went with some walls up.
See–I’m already behind the issue (of abolishing the stupid “policy”); no one needs to convince me. When that happens, call it mental fatigue, but part of me is shut down. Ready to hear only “blah, blah, blah” because “ya, I know.” Think of it as the opposite of traditional bias. But now no new insight can get in. I almost skipped the whole event. And then, I almost skipped buying his book at the end. Oh what I would have missed!
(Thank you, Jeff– please forgive me.)
See– what happened was, I sat through his excellent explanations and slideshow thinking, “of course, yes, I agree. Preaching to the choir. Of course he cares, so his story can offer no surprises.” So I thought.
Then he mentioned that the text in his book was provided by the emails received from individuals on the subject, and not just those pictured. He read one as an example. One he’d read aloud to several groups I later learned.
I listened, almost determined not to be affected. (We get emotionally lazy sometimes too, ya know.) But the more I listened, the “movie” in my mind was beginning to roll. Someone out there was talking about his or her LIFE. Simply, but really their small corner of the universe and its routines, expectations, fears and disappointments, telling it as it was. I gulped and held the wetness in my eyes. I was moved.
Maybe I should buy the book to support the cause. To help out Jeff, obviously a sincere soul with good intentions. Ok, what the hay…I am after all, on board with “the issue.”
I came home and flipped a couple of pages. Oh, I’ll read a line or two– maybe I’ll find that gripping letter he read. Here it is. Wait, no. This one’s different. I sat down and read more. More details of a different life, another “scene.”
Time ticked by. Getting late, don’t have time for this. But I took the book along to the kitchen and fixed a quick dinner. Then sat at the dining table trying to hold the book open with one hand while lifting a sandwich with the other. Horrified at myself, this is not normal for me: what if I got greasy fingerprints on this beautiful book? The pictures which I’d seen repeatedly this night now demanded yet another look. Greater respect. The stories overlaid on the faces in shadow.
I read letter after letter. Many mental films played. Individual experiences became tangible, as if I knew the people personally. I re-imagined the details with myself in them. It got me. I let go and cried.
Now–the book is a sacred object.
Now– not only am pried open, but I see. Bigger and anew. I see Jeff and his art clearly! I see people I know. I see what’s real. And thank God, I didn’t miss it.
This is the magic of each life. One person can make a difference.
I’m sure every individual soul that wrote an email was not setting out to become representative of a whole cause. “Speaking to America.” The poster child, the grand speech. What they did do was tell their own little story. Unadorned, but true. There was only outreach and hope and trying to say, just to Jeff, they understand and here’s why.
This is “life as it looks from my end.” And written in the thick of feeling. So it becomes epic.
As an actor I have always heard, the more personal your performance, the more universal it becomes.
We don’t want to hear speeches. Just talk to ME.
We don’t want to read statistics. Show me ONE and why I should care.
We don’t want to watch telethons. We want to share in one experience, and understand that one story.
See, we want to belong, yet recognize our unique place in the family.
“The designs is not in the details. The details ARE the design.”
(God/beauty/magic is in the details.)
Do you see? You are a detail of the universe. YOU are very important.
This is a clue on opening ourselves as well as others.
There is strength in joining with others, while remaining individuals still.
Be uniquely you. Share it. Be open to others who share.
Thank you Jeff for caring so much, to share your own and others point of view. For the patience it takes with even “open” minds like mine. You taught me a lesson and gifted me beyond your cause. Bless you.
Has someone opened up your mind recently? Even if just WIDER? Do tell…