Re: Protest

I live in a community where people come out to protest on a regular basis. I join in because I naively see it as a sign of democratic action. Based on the signs people carry to support their outrage/concern, there may be other motivations for their presence in the crowd. For example, at a recent climate change rally, I saw one overweight man sporting a T-shirt that read ‘I love CO2’ while waving another ‘I love fossil fuels’. Was he after sales or just being contrary?

Being somewhat afraid of large crowds and a functional introvert to boot, you can often find me at rallies like this leaning against a tree where I can appreciate the shade or gain some shelter from the drizzle. An activist I’m not. Rather a cheerleader/witness. My sign would probably read; ‘I see what you mean’ or ‘I’m here for you.’ Some protest signs written by a more anarchistic sort can seem like manifestos: small print on corrugated cardboard, begging to be read, to acknowledge the effort that it took to pour out such passionate thoughts. Short form declaration: ‘Pay attention! I mean it!’

Protests I’ve attended clearly allow folk to vent. Quiet self expression is as evident as a collective shout of alarm. At a recent Fridays For Future congregation I was impressed how Greta Thunberg’s leadership had encouraged a diversity of ages, backgrounds and emotions to come together in a harmonious demonstration of concern over the climate crisis. Amidst the speeches, music and cheering a small hole opened in a part of the crowd as a lone middle-aged male removed his clothes and poured a bottle of motor oil over his body, miming his anguish over pipeline leaks. He wasn’t arrested. People gave him space.

In our city protests tend to be peaceful. Marches and rallies offer up chants, poems, speeches and slogans. Some who line the streets join in if they find a friend or are moved by the cause. Sometimes it seems counterproductive to see smiles on the protesters’ faces while they’re shouting to end war. It makes me wonder about the line between protest and carnival. But in Canada it’s true we are polite and, for better or worse, we work hard at trying not to offend others, even those with whom we disagree.

Art lives and thrives in protest settings. Feelings pour out in creative ways. I always feel grateful for the civility expressed at protest gatherings I’ve been to in Canada. I’ve heard bystanders thank the calm looking police officers for just being there. My sons, in contrast, have been witness to protests that have started out civil but have turned violent, often as a result of police being instructed to clamp down on demonstrators.

There is much injustice in our current world. Perhaps there always has been, yet now it’s easier to see. It’s easier to name the wrongs. It’s easier to find something or someone specific to blame. At the same time it seems harder to find someone who will listen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHN6AViJAvI

Re: Silly

I like being silly. Silliness is a part of me that rarely sees the light of day because I am such a serious person. When I get silly, people are often unsure whether to believe what I have just said so I will have to reassure them that everything I say isn’t to be treated as gospel.

My silliness is usually verbal. My late wife once called a halt to a family card game because I had started a series of silly sounds with our young sons that went on and on until my boys and I were in tears of laughter. I think silliness may be a guy thing. As a form of humour, silly ranks up there with slapstick. The Three Stooges: Adults acting as kids. What’s not to like? These comics were physically funny and goofy at the same time. As a kid I couldn’t get enough of them. As an adult, I marvel at their comic timing and visual artistry.

Being a self conscious individual and quite reserved in general, it’s no wonder friends and family members have taken umbrage when I let my silly out. There are some seeming contradictions to my silly side. For example, I don’t like Halloween or any kind of charade game. I feel badly when I’m teased and work hard not to tease others. Romantically, my enthusiasm can be construed as silly, but then love can be senseless and beyond rational explanation, so what’s wrong with that? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fK5oJcn99d4

The mood has to be right for me to feel comfortable being foolish. I have to be as malleable as a blob of Silly Putty. At my most absurd I am likely overtired. That’s when my funny bone is most sensitive to suggestion so an outrageous video can be very cathartic. Stand up comedians often rely on silliness to drive their sketch. A good performance will reveal just how crazy we humans are. George Carlin tops my list of artists who can make silliness seem sensible. His intellectual manner shone through even while he made endearingly goofy faces. Robin Williams was a master of showing the beauty of keeping the child within from being smothered by the responsibilities of adulthood. Time after time he would delight me with his silliness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmqmyYRi-lU

Responsibility can be a burden more lightly born when mixed with a dash of jester-ism. That’s likely why rulers once ordered fools to be amongst their court. The troupe Monty Python is clearly an example of using comedy to make the powerful look silly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoIdEjdZIls

Sarcasm is hurtful, yet silliness can’t possibly harm. An act of silliness may disturb someone’s sensibilities yet I say, “Get over yourself!” I herald those who can pull off purposeful irreverence through a silly reference. Sometimes a sound like a snort, well timed, can reveal the snobbery, the stuffiness, that too often comes with polite society. Kudos to those brave enough to bring others, too serious for their own good, to a heightened awareness of the value of nonsense.

Re: Shakespeare

Shakespeare writes music, if music be truth. And since music is Art then Art is also truth. And since I can see Art in everything then Shakespeare is everywhere.

My blog postings are regarding words and though I not be the Bard, by any stretch, I can value the power of words. So I propose that Shakespeare is more than a name but a word with meaning far beyond the person who was Shakespeare. For me and many, the name used as a word can itself conjure up words that cast spells on the imagination and bring clarity to one’s existence.

I was introduced to Shakespeare, the man, in high school history class. This writer lived and worked over 450 years ago. His work is still studied, re-imagined, reproduced and talked about today. To me he is Sir William, although he was never knighted. The fact that scholars have doubted some of his originality matters not to me, for his name stands as a brand upon the beauty of the English language. It was in grade ten that I came to know Shakespeare as a word beyond the name. We studied The Merchant of Venice in English class that year. We dissected the words in the play. We practised the poetry. We acted out parts. We became characters. We went to Stratford, Ontario to see the word made flesh on stage.

Henceforth, I saw Shakespearean things in other art forms. Just as music can move you without knowing from whence that feeling came, experiencing Shakespeare can bring understanding to my very existence. Like music, Shakespeare is a language that I don’t need to translate to fathom. When read, Shakespeare flows like poetry. When watching actors portray the parts transcribed, the audience moves with a rhythm palpable. It doesn’t have to be live theatre either. The film Shakespeare In Love captures well the play within the play. Who cannot feel as the audience does at this scene near the end of Romeo and Juliet?

I have visited some of the sites in England where William Shakespeare once walked. I have paddled on the Avon River. I visited his cottage in Stratford.
I discovered the spirit of Shakespeare is not of a place. When I feel the word Shakespeare my mind opens. Today I came across a piano installed on a sidewalk beside a beach and I thought, “My! How Shakespearean!” Last week I went to a production of the musical Mamma Mia. The songs were not so much sung as recited rhythmically, as in a play that Shakespeare might have written. Here through the inspiration of music by ABBA; love was asked for and not given, betrayal was evident, protagonists were aggrieved, antagonists were forgiven, lovers were reunited, souls were enlightened. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OBneuoZaOw

The word Shakespeare comes to mind, whenever I see signs that someone is exploring humanity. In my community we often see Living Statues: People dressed as characters who mime. They are human, trying to reach other humans through Art: That’s Shakespeare! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szeq1M0_7PQ