Friday, December 15, 2006

Slipping Into Deeper Lives

The thing that makes me nuts about this blog (and this film, for that matter) is my need to both demonstrate and feel that we're moving forward. On the surface, it would seem not; I haven't postd in days. In fact, though, we are. Not just literally (we're on Linda Ellerbee's calendar in January, and still working on Bill Moyers, though. There's more to this project than who we interview and what they say.

The entire undertaking reflects a desire, an ambition, a need to (as I sang in "Snapshot Summertime" way back in 1994) slip into a deeper life. To that end, then, and filtered through a "deep and simple" lens, every day has its reward.

Earlier this week, I received a rigurously considered and thoroughly thoughtful email from one of my oldest and most beloved friends, Kristan Flynn. Kristan, and her husband Jeff, are amongst my closest and favorite friends. Though distance (they live in Princeton) precludes spending a ton of time together, there's never a shortage of substantive conversation when we do snag a minute. Her email runs nearly 1300 words and covers everything from childhood obesity to Catholicism.

In considering what forces oppose that which is deep and simple, Kristan's thesis -- like Bo Lozoff's -- is that consumerism -- you are what you buy -- is largely responsible. She writes:

    We have ceded ground to the notion that our identities and contribution to the wider social context is in the most primal way determined by what we purchase and how we behave as consumers. This has been going on for quite some time, but now it seems some of the controls and safety nets in place have been removed. The fish has rotted at the head (adults - corporate scandals, congress, an illegal war) and now is reaching the tail (children). While I am more aware of this issue as it relates to food due to my studies I think it is applicable to so many arenas.

    The moment that this struck me the most was after September 11, at a time that should have been an opportunity for introspection and leadership we were told to return to normal and "normal" was defined as shopping. It made me realize, the powerful parties that had the ear of the President were communicating their greatest fears, which was "We can’t have this kill 4th quarter profits."

    We were at a point when there was an almost universal openenss to a broader challenge. A willingness to contribute, sacrifice and connect. In response we were told, there is nothing to see here and the best thing you can do is provide us your power by proxy. We'll make the big decisions, you just get out there and spend money.

I laugh every time I remember my brother saying, "What is the conflict in our movie? Every story needs a conflict." Because we couldn't be levelling responsibility any higher up the cultural org chart.

Sometimes I feel hopeless against it. All week long I've been watching Spike Lee's "When The Levees Broke" (see "With Your Feet In The Air And Your Head On The Ground" at my other web site). And all week long I've been asking myself, "Where are our priorities? How are we failing each other so miserably?" And I wonder what more I can do. Sure, I record my benefit records, and donated to The Red Cross. Sure, I speak out online and to whomever will listen. And sure, I'm working on this film. But what does it take to turn the tide against a power base that characterizes the largest single-day anti-war protest in history a "focus group"?

I'm not sure. But I sure am glad there are at least a few people, like Kristan, willing to ask the tough questions, and consider the difficult answers.

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