In all the madness of my life these past few weeks, I have not failed to notice and pay attention to the continued madness of the world. There has to be a rhythm to how you connect to what is going on or you can risk becoming strident, narrow-minded and ineffectual. I see it a lot with people who dedicate their lives to one specific cause. Their very narrowed focus does allow them to do great things but sometimes, at a great loss as to what could be done.
The whole Kony controversy is an example of this. There is a lot of criticism about the campaign because of its narrow and oversimplified focus and its use of the traditional appeal to the idea of the civilized having to rescue the uncivilized. The BBC and many other agencies have published some very in depth reports on the good the campaign is doing, the bad it is creating, and the discrimination it is promoting. You see, nothing in life is one thing or the other – or even one thing over another. In everything there is a bit of the tragic and the joy, the good and the bad, the healthy and unhealthy. It is when you cease to see that because of a narrowed focus that you begin to lose ground in creating change. Especially if your focus has narrowed to the point that only one thing has become important and you cannot see how all things connect and feed off each other.
In my current workshop, Writing Your Self into Life, we are working on the development of heroes and villains as characters. It is funny to see all my writers start to “get” that every hero is a villain and vice versa. That heroic deeds can be villainous, and villainy the only saving grace sometimes. It is learning that they co-exist that allows a character (and person) to become fully alive. The acceptance is about their simultaneous existence, the character comes in in exerting the choice between the two. Some people stop at the acceptance and never exercise choice. Choice can be frightening because it means you are letting something go.
In China, there is a ragingly popular new interview show called “Interviews before execution.” The show interviews prisoners before they die, they have limited themselves only to those convicted of violent murders. The most popular episode featured Bao Ronting, who brutally murdered his mother. For many people in China, watching Bao’s interview was their first exposure to an openly gay man. Ding Yu is the reported performing the interviews. She has said that part of the reason they do the show is because these prisoners have something to say and what they say underscores the value of human life. Bao asked her two questions during his interview that deeply affected her. The first was when he asked, “Do you feel awkward speaking to me?” She had never been near an openly gay man before and it floored her that he was so aware of how she must be feeling and was so gentle about it. She did feel awkward.
Then Bao asked, “Do you think I will go to Heaven?”
And Ding said, “At that moment I realized that I had witnessed the transition between life and death in another human being.”
China’s execution policies are changing. There are less capital offensive and more state judges speaking out against it. And this show, as strange and opportunistic as it may seem, is putting a face back on the execution. It is revealing that in execution too, a life is taken violently. A life that still has something to give.
Then you pull back and find something to let yourself escape for a moment the knowledge of the horrors we do – Homs, the Afghan massacre, the building collapses, floods and other tragedies. You have to or your vision will narrow and you will forget the world and all the life within it. No matter how much good you do in one tiny area of life, it is not nearly as effective as it could be if it is done without being able to coexist with everything else in the world.
c.2012 Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.