08/10/2004: "Looking for signs of hope"
July 31st (but posted a bit later)
I’ve been back in my old apartment for a week now, and the first night back was the hardest. I came in, after dark, surrounded by my four duffel bags of clothes and eight or ten paper bags of miscellaneous. I sat down on the floor to figure out how to inflate the mattress Robb lent me, and I wept. I wept for all my lost dreams. I wept for my life in a foreign land. I wept for the loss of Berlin and the fabrik where I worked. I wept for my brother Greg's death. And I wept for the loss of my love for Mauricio. That above all.
It was not the first, and I am sure it will not be the last time I shed tears. Sometimes I feel like I have spent seven months crying. This has been the saddest time I have ever endured.
I am glad to be home. Glad to be in Minneapolis, but I not completely satisfied. I keep looking for more hope. I feel like I am living surrounded by people who can’t find enough hope.
I returned to America from Germany anticipating encountering many people with a sense of urgency to end the war in Iraq. I did not find it. I found hardly anyone with a sense of urgency. Mostly I have encountered a feeling of impotence, helplessness. Sometimes Kerry’s election – no, sometimes defeating Bush revs folks up. Fahrenheit 9/11 revved some of us up. But mostly I encounter people who are for the most part materially comfortable, who are troubled by what America is doing in the world, who are dismayed by the dismantling of the progressiveness in Minnesota, who, like me, need hope.
In order to feel hope, I need to feel like something I might do could make a difference. I organized a discussion "The Intersection of Art and Civil Disobedience" at a conference of community cultural leaders a month ago. During it one woman confessed to feeling so overwhelmed with so much going wrong she had decided to focus on getting off junk mailing lists. At first I wanted to explode "Scores of people are dying in Iraq every day! There is no time for putzing with junk mail." I held my tongue, and came to realize that she needs to feel like she can succeed at what she takes on. With no hope of success, why bother? Unless things get as desperate as the residents of the Warsaw Ghetto felt ‘We are all going to be annihilated anyhow, so let’s take some of them out with us as we go!’ Unless things get that bad, I, we, need to find hope, inspiration, to be motivated to change things.
I don’t have any great answers. I’ve tried a few things that have at least provided me temporary fixes. Maybe that’s all we can hope for, for now; a successful endeavor here and there which makes the world a better place. Here are some of my recent small fixes:
• A performance at Patrick’s Cabaret on May 7th where I linked my experience of living in Berlin (the heart of the beast of the Holocaust) with living in the US today (the heart of the current beast).
• Eco-graffiti #1. A 60’ high peace sign trimmed into the grassy hillside between the Stone Arch Bridge and the Mill City Museum. It is subtle, and still there.
• A campaign which sought, successfully, to reverse the Twin Cities’ Marathon’s policy. They were going to limit prize money to US citizens. A gaggle of complaining citizens changed their mind!
• Eco-graffiti #2. A driftwood peace sign on the opposite side of the same bridge, just to the right of St Anthony Falls. I made it with Otto and Karen under the cover of darkness. It is better to do these things with partners. #2 was more fun than #1 because of that. Unfortunately #2 has been covered by the growth of plants surrounding it. Look for it to become visible again in the fall.
• Eco-graffiti #3. I made a small (2’ diameter) peace sign of pinecones on the lawn near the corner of 1st St and 3rd Ave NE. The next day someone had inserted a 3x5 notecard into it. It read: "First we must overcome fear." A short dialogue through art.
So, I am back on Nicollet Island, in my old apartment on Nicollet Street. It is sweet to be back in this place. I have enough clothes. I have a bed, and the basics for a kitchen. Now I am just looking for more hope. and love, finding love again would be nice.
Anyone got any inspiring ideas?
PS. It is August first as I write this postscript. I found two sources of hope today:
1. Walking the path to go swimming at Twin Lake I saw hundreds of little leopard frogs. More than I ever have seen at one time.
2. I saw Open Eye Theater’s delightful puppet show in Edie French’s backyard with about seventy people. Community, creativity, spirituality. The whole show celebrated summer.