Thursday, March 2, 2017

Why This All Should Matter- Three Stories

I write this eating ramen noodle soup. It is the oriental flavor, the vegetarian one, because I can afford to have such dietary habits. I write this on a computer, a computer that cost a considerable sum of money when put in relation to, say, not having a meal to eat. The keyboard is bathed in harsh artificial light, and there’s plenty of water in the fridge when all the salt from the soup gets to me.

So I am lucky. Lucky to be born in America, to have the parents I do. So there’s a chance that you reading this are lucky as well. And there’s a chance that you didn’t start out so lucky, that you built your way up to this, clean water, food, a higher standard of living. All this that a percentage of our global population, millions, do not have.

I am not trying to collectively guilt everyone in a first world country. I am trying to remind us that there is more to life, more beyond the next freeway or Starbucks. Make us all aware of our privilege.
Here’s a thing to remember: the Muslim ban. Refugee ban. Extreme vetting. Whatever your choice term. The fact that that executive order exists is not a surprise. This culture started a long time ago, this culture of distrust, of labeling ourselves against this ‘other’, reacting to pigmentation of skin or dyes on fabric to determine a person’s worth rather than the way a person’s words color the space around them.

This order is a thing of social culture, one that is possible to change. In my opinion, the best way to start changing culture in humanization. Make ourselves know that these refugees, these homeless, these ‘others’, they are the same human race as the rest of us.

Image result for voodoo donutsMy earliest memory of this was when I was 13, in Portland, Oregon with my mom. We had gone to the famous “Voodoo donuts” shop, and a homeless man was sitting near the entrance with his dog. As a child, I was wary of this man, he seemed dirty, possibly dangerous. I knew these thoughts weren’t right, but that didn’t stop the gut feeling. That was when my mom asked him what he wanted for breakfast. After some talking, he asked for an apple fritter and two milks. One of the milks, we later found out, was for the dog. We came upon him a few other times, always greeted with a friendly nod.
Image result for uber

When I was in Washington for the women’s march the day after inauguration, my group took an Uber. Talking to the driver for a while uncovered a story: he had escaped from his country, under a dictatorial regime, and was on the path for American citizenship. He had left his wife and daughter. There, in front of us, was a man who had been through so much, driving us to our hotel.

At airports across the country, protests had broken out over the Muslim ban. I attended one of these. A woman walked up to one of the people holding a sign, and said thank you, on behalf of me and my daughter. I could not imagine what this woman had been though. The picture she took with us is below. I am glad I can share her, along with so many others, story.

Humanity, Sibelius, and an Idea

Image result for sibeliusLet us talk, for a moment, about humanity. No. I misspoke. Let us first talk about Jean Sibelius, a composer who lived in the early to mid-1900’s.  He was requested to write a piece for the New York World fair, and then, there, the world was granted the gift that is and was Andante Festivo, a composition for string orchestra and timpani. On January 1st, 1939, the Radio Orchestra performed it, and that radio broadcast stands today as the only recording of Sibelius interpreting his own work. Due to shortness of time, he summarized his remarks into one phrase: Play with more humanity.
More humanity. And what is that to mean? Andante Festivo has been described as a “seamless repeated melody”, “unforced rubato”, solemn. Music is, I feel, is as much a part of the human experience as pain is. As I write this, I have Elijah Bossenbroek’s piece, A Song of Simplicity, on loop. The piece itself is seamless repetition, the notes miming, intertwining, forming a tangle, a veritable yarn of melodies. The beginning follows through to the end, which hands its volume to the beginning again. Seamless. Repetition.

Image result for pianoBut I digress. Humanity. A synonym: Benevolence. For the longest time, I was of the belief that “benevolence” was a negative, similar to malevolence. But as in Spanish, bien is good and mal is bad and everything is sort of all interconnected and that is the human experience. Well. It is, of course, impossible to capture in any one work of art. It is turmoil and anguish and tears and sighs and pleasure and sharp feelings that stab at your gut. And so, so much else. This feeling is what the Experience Project attempts to capture.

The Experience Project is a site made up of user-generated content, it’s members sharing moments and experiences in their life, along with questions they have. Others on the site are then able to commiserate, celebrate, and empathize with people, answer their questions, and get through life with this support group of people from all over the internet.

The Experience project is a wonderful concept that, for quite a while, accomplished its goal of uniting people through feelings. However, last year it stopped indefinitely due to online safety concerns.

Go on The Experience Project now, and you will find their impressive statistics of connections made.

Scroll through the posts, arranged from latest posted, and you will find statements of how much the users will miss EP.

But look deeper into the past, and see people sharing experiences, the experience of life, the human experience, a seamless, repeated, melody.