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I was going to cancel this week’s blog post, out of respect for the families of Newtown Elementary. Silence seemed the only appropriate thing to offer at this solemn time.
But maybe silence isn’t what is needed.
You and I are people of words. Words create our worlds. And words, in thought, emotion and expression, are what precede action.
It was words of outrage, shock and vengeance that poured through hearts into social networks Friday, only to be mostly replaced Saturday with trivialities and holiday cheer. Does that mean we’re fickle and don’t care? No. It’s a reality of human nature that while tragedy moves the hearts of the masses, at the end of the day it only truly effects those involved in the events.
But for that one day, we all became parents. Determined to stop young men with guns from walking freely and unnoticed right into our schools and opening fire. We lashed out as parents, too, in reaction to the reality that it’s possible to wake up to a normal day and by mid-morning have your whole world obliterated.
We spewed fury at guns and those who want them. We felt the unease of knowing more than anything we must make sure our children are safe and the subtle apprehension that hesitates (even though we hate that we hesitate) at what it would mean to be an American if we no longer have the right to bear arms and defend ourselves. (Our psyche still carries the emotions of a threat we aren’t sure exists anymore – for in the 1770s the right to bear arms was a right to stand up against an oppressive government, not local criminals.) We want the violence to stop. But we aren’t sure if gun control will make criminals less capable, or more creative.
For the sad reality of the fact is guns are a means to an end. But they are not the mind and heart behind that end.
A human being is. And while we can take guns away (and yes, I do believe that will create a safer environment, while at the same time drive the black market value of guns up, creating a new set of problems), we cannot wave a magic wand that will nullify the intentions of psychologically disturbed young men.
So what do we do to keep our kids safe in a precariously unsafe world?
One, we make it damn harder for armed individuals to walk into school zones. We can control who enters, who leaves. We can spend the money to make these schools as safe as our airports. We can create an inconvenience with x-rays and metal detectors at all schools – not just a select few. We can allocate budget for armed guards. We can create secure school facilities that make it damn near impossible for someone to walk in and start shooting.
Because right now, at most small town schools, you can walk in and no one even notices. I have often thought of this when I’ve entered the main school doors at the local elementary (which are right in front of the open cafeteria often filled with a hundred kids) and all that exists is a sign saying visitors must report to the principal’s office. That’s it. No adults in sight. The principal’s office is a good 300 feet down a hallway. Anyone who enters could go anywhere in that school and be undetected. And this is not unusual for small-town America.
We rage at guns, we rage at what’s wrong with our society that we have mentally disturbed youth who target schools – but sometimes we make things far more complicated than they really are. Sometimes the answer is as simple as locking doors, hiring guards, screening every person who enters.
Sometimes we fail because of the simple adage that “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.”
Does better security solve the bigger problem of why someone shoots children? No.
We can’t solve that problem. No amount of mental health care, counseling, therapy – none of it will cure what’s missing from the psyche of individuals like this.
Can we take guns away and make them far harder to obtain? Yes.
But that still won’t prevent someone determined to kill from finding a way to kill.
We can debate this issue of gun control and school safety until we’re blue in the face, but that won’t make our schools safer today, now, as our kids get off the bus and walk into class.
Sometimes what we need to do is what we can do now.
One cannot discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. -Andre Gide
What new lands are you venturing toward?
Where do you turn for courage when you’re mid sea and can’t see anything but open water?
So much of creative life takes place under the surface.
In the internal thoughts, struggles, choices, beliefs. What we believe about ourselves is ultimately how far we’ll go. No matter if you are just starting to make a living at your art or can command six, seven or eight figures, choices about what you believe determine what you do. Ultimately, the question you must ask is: what do you want? In the foray of voices, demands, expectations, assumptions, doubts, opinions, what do you want?
This is your creative life. Your talent. You are ultimately the only one who can determine if what you are doing fulfills you as a creative soul. And you are also the only one who can determine if what you are receiving from your creative work is aligned with who you are.
What do you want from a creative project?
What do you believe about yourself in this project?
Where do you want to go?
Sometimes it takes a big, bold step to stand up to what’s in your way and stand up for yourself.
Whether it’s saying yes to your first public presentation or saying no to a major deal that just doesn’t feel right.
The why of what we do as is just as important as the what.
Be brave in your choices.
I read recently somewhere that companies need to be in command of their message – to know what to say and how to say it.
To be in command you first have to have confidence. Confidence is trust. Not arrogance. Confidence that signals to others that you believe in yourself, your product, your art, your work and that they can, too.
Be in command of your art. We all know that creative expression comes with a whole host of influences, muses, characters, choices – all vying for decisions, support, weight.
That’s where it comes down to really listening. Deeply. Openly.
Then trusting and moving forward.