Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Study In What It Means To Be Human

Everyone has a story to tell. And I think its important to listen to those stories. There is something amazing about sharing a part of yourself, your history, especially when you consider the amount of courage it may have taken. It enriches our own lives, and can teach us a thing or two about humankind. It can bring us back into touch with our surroundings, the world, and out of ourselves which we can too often get enveloped in. There are a number of projects that I have become aware of recently that I think are worth checking out.

The first one is the StoryCorps project. You can hear this on NPR every Thursday morning on Morning Edition or online. At the heart of this project is a simple but wonderful idea about two people who are important to one another connecting through the act of conversation, often by the retelling of a significant event or memory. These conversations  are recorded in mobile booths dotted about the USA (anyone can sign up and participate) and are archived at the Library of Congress. Sometimes the stories are horrifying, other times funny or touching, but they always leave me with a sense of a fuller understanding for the world. As the founder of the project Dave Isay writes.......

'By listening closely to one another, we can help illuminate the true character of
 this nation reminding us all just how precious each day can be and how truly great 
 it is to be alive.' 

 This I Believe is an idea that dates back from a 1950's radio programme created by journalist and public Edmund R Murrow during the time of the Cold War, and a feeling that there was a loss of spiritual values in America. The intent was in Murrow's words 'to point to the common meeting grounds of beliefs, which is the essence of brotherhood and the floor of our civilization.' Public figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harry Truman gave millions of daily radio listeners hope and inspiration through their brief essays of personal philosophies, and guiding principles. Three or four years ago, Jay Allison resurrected the idea for our modern times, and invited both celebrities, well known figures, and the general public at large to write short statements of beliefs to share on the air with others. The idea this time round was not to necessarily create  the sense of one shared belief, but rather to create a respect for many the diverse philosophies and beliefs out there in the world. I love this idea. I am intending this week to write my own essay. I think by doing this it can help focus in on what is important to you, and can be a springboard for jumping into new territory, or just reaffirm that you are on the right track. From time to time I like to spend time writing things like this, it can help get those creatives juices flowing. Throughout my art schooling I've been asked to write  things such as personal manifestos, dreams and goals in life (no dream or aspiration is too big or ridiculous). It opens your mind to all sorts of possibilities. So I will post mine in the coming days.....

Also worth taking a look at is One in 8 Million on the NY Times Website, videos of  the people and characters in New York City.

I have one final recommendation for you, whilst we are on the subject of listening, and the human capacity for goodness even when it feels all hope may be lost, which is to watch the German film 'The Lives Of Others'. You will be glad you did.

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