It's amazing to think we all started in the same place -- the sandbox. Remember that place where we were collectively open to new rascals joining in, new ways, new toys, and new energy? The place where if someone had one leg, one arm, one toe less than us...well, we were OK with that. Maybe they had a different energy. Maybe they didn't really laugh when everyone else did. Maybe they were quieter than everyone else. It rarely mattered, if ever. Somehow we all got along and made it work, one shared PB &J sandwich at a time.
Then we got "all grown up." And for whatever reason, that sense of acceptance, of openness, sense of being human has...well, it's not the same. As the years have gone by, difference, that is misunderstood difference, is something that is seen in some eyes as a handicap.
Tragic. How did we lose our way?
People have come up to me over the years and have thanked us for our advocacy for the arts, with the notion that it is the arts that "reminds them of what it is to be more human and to accept and celebrate difference." OK, yes, agreed. But, though we agree the arts can have that effect, why does it take these experiences to be a catalyst to remind us how to be human? Why can't that come from ourselves in our everyday lives?
I recently saw Anthony Rapp's one man show Without You which chronicles his experience as one of the original cast members of Rent coinciding with the untimely death of its creator Jonathan Larson as well as Anthony's mother of cancer. Rightly so, it received four stars out of four in the Toronto Star. The very themes of the show touch on all elements of being human. Living with AIDS, and what that means. Living with cancer, and what that means. We as a society have come to learn what it means to proactively accept, love and support citizens who are living and dying with these diseases. And yes, these are some of the same rascals who were in that sandbox with us. Shows such as this reminded me how it felt, how it will feel, or how it does feel. We are reminded what it is to be human.
So, you see the show, you have that feeling, and what's next? How can that feeling I experienced in that theatre lead people to be more human all the time? Imagine if such a play can not only inspire us "busy humans" who may have lost our "human way" but actually inspire a group of citizens that have ACTUALLY lost their way?
But what are we talking about here?
We are talking about change. Sustained change to get back to where we were in that sandbox.
So can the arts assist the process? Is it the responsibility of it to do so?
Rapp's play definitely inspired something. Those 700 were inspired to hug, to touch, to say what they felt, to remind us what it is to accept the beauty in difference. What each did with that, we don't know.
We are at a critical time to find that humanness in ourselves. President Obama's address to the town of Newtown very much spoke to this and the fact that we are not doing enough to live collectively and symbiotically in this world.
One play, one president, one event is not going to change our direction. But we all can feel the tides turning. It's real. It's happening. Something has shifted. The answer lies not for us all to "meet at the sandbox" per se. But it's getting back to that time. That feeling. That way. All is not lost when you see humans being human that restore that feeling that we are all in this together. It starts with you. Go. Start. Go back to that sandbox, figuratively or actually. And invite those who are like you and those who are not.
See you there?
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