A Very Modern Conundrum
In starting to write this post I fell into, what I can only describe as a "Twenty Teens" problem. Here's the set up: I went to an art show of a friend last night and since then, I've been thinking about how important it is to show up for each other. Earlier in the week, I had driven up to my parent's house to help my father who was running for a local office. I held his sign at the polls and smiled a lot. After that, I had a rare night by myself with both of my parents. To do this, I had to white knuckle my way through a car ride which, due to some driving anxiety, makes highway driving sometimes, but not always, a waking nightmare. But I did the drive. And just like, with my friend's art show, showing up was the most important part of what I accomplished.
I knew that there was some quote about that, and I googled "just showing up" to find the quote. And that's when it hit me, my Twenty-Teen Problem: the quote, "Eighty percent of life is showing up,” is attributed to Woody Allen. CRAP. Not Woody Allen!
See, I've read the stories about Woody Allen's history of alleged child abuse and I believe it. I haven't watched a movie of his since. Honestly, it casts his main character in most of his films- himself- in a super creepy light. (same thing for Louis CK for me)That was my choice. Just like, after watching Leaving Neverland, I am not going to buy or listen to Michael Jackson anymore. My choice. My daughter and I were talking about this just last night. That the problem with this model is that you could end up having to toss out so much of art and music and literature if you are going to stop consuming art made by reprobates: I swear to God that I watched the movie, "Goodbye Christopher Robin" and felt so sad for the son of A.A. Milne and the ways in which both of his parents used him to make themselves rich and famous that I don't really enjoy Winnie the Pooh anymore. Winnie the Pooh. (I read the Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh to my son so many times the spine is broken, I know some of it by heart. I loved Winnie the Pooh.) The new movie about Tolkien better be good- I can't loose another book series!
People have been suggesting various solutions to this problem. Pete Davidson, on Saturday Night Live, suggested you would have to say out loud, "I know that (fill in the blank) is a horrible person who did (fill in the blank)." and then you could make a donation to an appropriate charity addressing (fill in the blank) and THEN you could enjoy it. Other people think we should separate our feelings about the artist from our feelings about the art. And still others want a societal rejection of offenders, Twitter's version of tar and feathering. But that has led to some awkward reversals (see Johnny Depp.) My opinion is that it is simpler than any of these answers.
I believe that art- whether it is musical, visual, or written- is a conversation between the creator and the audience. And as adults, we are responsible for the conversations we engage in. We "engage" when we listen, watch, buy, or talk about art. Our own end of the conversation is what is in our control. We can be critical or laudatory or we can choose not to engage. And if we feel strongly about that, we can make our own art encouraging others to see it our way, and have that conversation. There is no short-cut.
Take Woody Allen. The New York times offers a fairly informative and apparently even-handed timeline of the allegations against Woody Allen. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/31/movies/woody-allen-mia-farrow-dylan-farrow-a-timeline.html
I don't know where the truth lies. But I watched Dylan Farrow tell her story, and I believe her. So I don't engage with Woody Allen's art. That is my choice. I don't imagine that it is more than that- I don't have to be right, or convince others that I am right.
I think that crimes against children are particularly hard to prosecute, because children are so vulnerable, and often don't understand what has happened to them until they are older, when evidence and legal options have faded. And so we often don't have the luxury of certainty. So that is where my engagement with Woody Allen ends. I'm not certain, so I don't feel compelled to try to convince others, I just make my own choice.
So, showing up. Wanting to write about showing up being a big part of engaging with the world led me to write about how engaging is a big part of showing up.
"Eighty percent of showing up is engaging" - Laura Fedolfi
and no one better mess with Frog and Toad. I need Frog and Toad.