Friday, March 14, 2008

strength in numbers

have you ever noticed that when you focus on something that it suddenly pops up everywhere in your life? you know, like you read a book, decide you'll travel to a locale it mentions and suddenly every news story you see, every random conversation you have somehow comes back to that locale?

well, i've been thinking a lot about the life of those who live according to their ideals, who strive to make their life's work about something that means something to them. i've been comforted to find that i'm not alone in my struggles to find another way of carving a path for myself that feels right.

i've been incredibly inspired by the work of a crazy bulgarian (christo somebody, starts with a j and has f's in it..) and his socialite crazy parisienne wife who have mounted large scale art exhibitions across major cities like paris and new york. masterworks, a program on tvo has been airing documentaries about their struggles to stage an interactive art experience with no other goal than to bring pleasure to the people who interact with the space. they spend all of their own money, only have the work up for two weeks and hire local people to do all of the prep and take down work.

it's been amazing watching these kooky free spirits stand up against people like jacques chirac and go to town hall meetings with people who state that central park is a piece of art itself and to stage something there would be like painting over a renoir with a degas. so interesting to see the incredible resistance to pleasure for the sake of it. the suspicion toward these people who "must" have an alterior motive of some sort.

the first project was to wrap pont neuf (bridge in paris) in white silk. this one took several years to make happen. the second involved putting up hundreds of orange gates in central park which had orange fabric billowing out from under them. this project, proposed in 1979 was not approved until 2005! talk about perserverence! was incredible to see them get up each time they were shoved down by bad press, angry artists, unsympathetic mayors. the best part was watching all of the footage of people stopping to stare at the fabric as it moved in the breeze. the smiles, the serenity, the magical way it transformed the space in the dreary winter. it was so moving to see so many visibly moved by the experience. i wondered how christo and his wife kept their faith, marveled at how they could even have conceived of such a project in the first place.

then i went to a book club meeting focusing on the novel eat, pray, love where a woman quits her job to get her internal house in order, starting with a mission to teach herself how to allow herself to experience pleasure for the sake of it. again, this theme of stepping of the beaten path to listen to the part of you that can't fake it anymore.

a couple of friends also shared their reactions to into the wild. film about a young man who wants to face life on his own terms and literally goes into the wild alone to test his limits. while many who see the film feel that his is a story of misguided youth i saw it as a story told about a point of view that is seldom discussed, written about or mentioned in film. we don't really celebrate our dreamers and visionaries, those whose struggle is an intellectual/emotional one that doesn't always yield the kind of results we feel are to be examined.

personally, i also found myself itching to do something to satiate my own need for doing something that would 'fill me up' so i got together with a friend and painted for a few hours one evening. we were all calmed and rejuvinated by the experience, grateful for the process moreso than the product. all found ourselves eager to make opportunities to tap into that kind of experience more often.

to round out this recent flurry of experiences surrounding the celebration of ideas and idealists, i watched a friend's film that he'd prepared for his thesis. it spoke to the dangers of idealizing a past and how it can limit a future. he spoke openly about the burden of glorified ideals as well as their beauty. he documented his struggles to make things make sense, to find an authentic way to be in the world that wasn't marked by other people's fingerprints.

in all of these things i saw equal amounts of pleasure and pain. saw heartache, felt confusion and the messiness that comes with writing your own script. still, i am feeling a little more encouraged, a little more comfortable with the discomfort.

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