Monday, July 18, 2016

Words in a Time of Arms

The world is a mess. It’s a very scary, sometimes violent, place. And it feels like it’s getting worse. I try to comfort myself and say it’s just a matter of media. With smart phone cameras and instant sharing, it’s easier to see the latest horror. Just because we didn’t always have instant upload of violence doesn’t mean it didn’t always exist. But whether the world has become a more violent place or not, you can’t hide from the terror that coats the planet.

Then I sit in my dressing room at the theatre, or finish writing a new chapter in a book, and I wonder how I can be so complacent? In a world where refugees are starving and people are afraid to celebrate their holidays in public, how dare I spend my time doing things as silly as playing the Wicked Witch or writing about magic? I war with myself. Decide to quite all art and join the Peace Corps. But then there’s a moment, a wonderful moment, when I realize that what I do is important.

The moment comes in different ways. An audience member who finds me after a show to tell me that it was the most fun they’ve had in a long time. A reader who says that they stayed up all night to finish a book. When I realize that the undercurrent of the story I’m writing might lead readers to a more compassionate point of view, or make one LGBTQ teen feel like there is another distant person on their side.

What we do as artists – authors, actors, painters, musicians – is important. We are important. Art is important. No, we aren’t doctors. We aren’t saving a bombing victim’s leg or life. We aren’t policemen who put themselves in danger to stop mass shootings. We aren’t creating new laws for a safer tomorrow.

We are the people who distract from the pain. We are the ones who teach without classrooms.

We tell stories that remind us of the past and show what the future has the potential to become. We have voices that people want to listen to. And we can use those voices to tell stories of inclusion, compassion, and the terrible things that happen when we forget the most important things about being human.

It has been said that my generation is less likely to trust the media. There is a theory, and I for one believe it, that it is because J.K. Rowling taught us not to trust The Daily Prophet. Rita Skeeter will say anything for a headline, no matter how untrue the story might be. J.K. Rowling made us think for ourselves, to doubt and to question. She didn’t preach, she just wrote. How magical is that?

Our voices may not be as loud as J.K. Rowling’s, but we as a community of artists and authors can be heard. Our voices are important. Our words are important. And together we might just mold the world into a less frightening place.

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