What is Essential?

Clancy, basking in the sun.

It has been six weeks since I’ve shared writing out into the world.
I keep thinking about writing…instead of writing.

Much of those six weeks have seen me home with the dog (who is loving the arrangement, living his best life), with occasional masked-up trips into the grocery, post office, and a couple of doctor appointments.

There are so many questions rising out of this pandemic.
Some scary ones of death and spread and treatments and consequences directly related to the virus.
Some polarizing ones about response and leadership and the future and learning/not learning from the past.
Some philosophical ones about what we want the future to look like, what the future COULD look like.

Bouncing between these debates can be fatiguing.
Watching daily Ground-Hog-Day press briefings can be fatiguing.
Reading polarized opinions on social media is certainly fatiguing.
Witnessing the dismissal of a person’s value based on any of the above, during a time when our need for human connection has become abundantly clear is downright disheartening.

Today I am mostly thinking about the question: What is essential?

There’ve been debates over who is considered an “essential worker” and what does that say about them and what does that say about the rest of us.
There are debates happening about which businesses are “essential.”
(“Why can we go to Walmart but not Kohl’s?!”
“Why are salons open in THAT county but not HERE?!”)

As someone who works in the arts, I know this question well.
Everyone who works in the arts knows this question: Why should we value what YOU do? Are you ESSENTIAL?
Big corporations clamor to pour out millions for their name to be brandished on a sports stadium.
Theaters/museums/dance studios clamor for donations and grants from the same handful of arts-supporting-philanthropic organizations and individuals–repeatedly striving to demonstrate why we are essential.

No one is wondering if the NBA, NFL, MLB will be able to come back on the other side of the pandemic.
The survival of theaters, dance studios, and other arts organizations is clearly threatened.

(Don’t misunderstand me. I very much wish I had a baseball game to listen to in the background as I sit here writing this in the summertime sun. Summertime is for baseball AND Shakespeare in the Park. #GoGiants)

Today there is talk of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London permanently closing if they can’t get funding. SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE–which brought back to us the theater that survived the plagues of the past.
Losing it would be a true tragedy.

Isolation/Stay-At-Home-Order/Quarantine is shining a bright light on our need for connection.
Our need to see and be seen. To be seen for our value.
See me.
I am essential.

SEE that I am essential.

This is what art does for us.
Art allows us to see one another more fully.

In her book, The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer writes,
“To erase the possibility of empathy is to erase the possibility of understanding.
To erase the possibility of empathy is also to erase the possibility of art. Theater, fiction, horror stories, love stories. This is what art does. Good or bad, it imagines the insides, the heart of the other, whether that heart is full of light or trapped in darkness.”

Creating art is asking: Do you see me? Please see me.
And it provides the audience the opportunity to answer and connect: Yes. I see you. And I am seen as I see myself in your art.

Art is essential because you are essential.
Because I am essential.
Because we all are essential.
It is essential that we recognize it.

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