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Yesterday, in the Zen group I attend, our leader Peg shared an op ed from the day's New York Times called "Fighting the Spiritual Void." In it, David Brooks discusses how we are all either coping with trauma or helping others who are. A discussion followed about the guilt and shame we share as a culture, but shoulder individually. While Germany, for instance, has paid billions of dollars in reparations to Israel, and continues to do so, America has never paid back, or even acknowledged with meaningful apology, the genocide of the Native Americans, slavery, or the many humanitarian crimes we've committed across the world. Instead, we deny our guilt at the state level, while we internalize it. We try to heal individually what can only be healed collectively.
Last week, I participated in a workshop hosted by the Fusebox Festival called Choreographing State Violence, co-lead by Tania El Khoury & China Smith. I went because of my interest in dance and interactive performance, and for the personal reason of having lost a dear friend and spiritual mentor to a policeman's bullet in 2017. I tried to prepare myself to be gutted, but also hoped that embodying this violence in a safe and collaborative way would be a sort of catharsis, making art out of our pain and trauma. In the end, I was gutted, but not redeemed. I did not feel part of a generative whole, but alone in my grief and guilt. The discussion yesterday helped me to place the personal in the palms of the collective. We need this from the state, but we can start by getting it from the local, and the creative.
How can art play a role in healing? This is a big question, perhaps even my guiding purpose. In some special instances, my paintings are purchased by those who are grieving the loss of a child or a spouse, those who are going through divorce and self-recreation, or those who simply seek a way to meet their own vulnerability. I am honored by that connection. While our culture moves quickly past these milestones & transitions, we can take the time personally to recognize, to sit with, & to reflect.
Has art helped you to heal? Making it, experiencing it, owning it? I'd love to hear your memories, or any thoughts you have on how art can mark a transition or heal us in broader ways.
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