I thought about these things as I drove to Virginia from Alabama: This project, like most things, is about storytelling.
We all have stories. We hold some inside and we tell some, repeatedly. You have to honor your own story; it is the only way to manifest yourself into the world. One of the reasons I love the South is because of the storytelling. Most Southerners want to tell you the Whole Story, and tell it well, without self-consciousness.
While I was driving to Virginia, I listened to This American Life episode #515, Good Guys. One of the segments is about a retired solider who believes that he became a solider because he wanted to kill another human, just to feel what it is like. He believes that many soldiers feel the same way. His voice conveyed his conflict and confusion about this. The NPR reporter covering the story expressed her shock at his ability to articulately admit wanting to kill another human. She said, about herself “I’m a peaceful sort, I don’t come from a military family, I’ve not been in a lot of bar fights, I’ve never lived in the south or playing violent video games… so I recognize I might be coming to this a little more wide-eyed than other people might.” I thought it was funny that to her, being from the South meant that one might be more in touch with violent human tendencies, or the ability to honestly admit scary things about oneself. Or is it that Southerners are more in touch and honest about conflicted human experience and narrative?
Between Alabama and Virginia, I stayed in a hotel and watched TV. I feel like I am out of touch when I turn on the TV, because of how many more reality shows there are than the last time I watched TV. I know this is the point of television: to make life seem clear and easy, but watching humans in ‘reality’ edited into 20 minute televised digestible segments is a real dishonor to human narrative. It is entertaining, but as we watch it more and more, won’t we expect our stories to be like this? In my experience, the best and worst of what we do and experience is complicated and multi-layered and sometimes unknown to us, even it as it happens. Many times, there is no real resolution, or explanation, and if there is, it will be remembered differently by different people. We are complicated. We should be honoring the stories that reflect this.
On a personal note, while I live in Farmville to work on this project, I will be living in a dorm room in a small house with 3 Chinese women, who are here to learn how to teach English as a second language. They were excited about my arrival today because they want to also understand something called ‘cultural ambassadorship”, they said. They told me their English names and cleared a small place for my food in the refrigerator, overflowing with Chinese foods and meats. They are also using the dishwasher as a drying rack, rather than an appliance. In my room, I have a small single bed with a plastic sheet. Even though I’m really excited about this project, I left my huge bed, my community, my pet, my friends, my print shop & business to be here.
As a result, I’ve been thinking about The Prophet: “For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.” I also to listened to Willie Nelson. Wille and Kahlil: two people who embrace the conflicted experience of being human.