Thursday, May 12, 2016

defining humanity….



"me and you,
and you and me..."

I almost don't know where to start. I have been staring at the screen since watching Ethan Wylie's film school project, "Asdamora." Yes, it includes songs that I love. And yes, the images are lovely. But it is the over-arching message that has me holding my breath wondering what comes next. I hope you will find it as moving as I did.

ASDAMORA is an acronym for Analytic System for Differentiating Mankind and Other Relatives. Quite a mouthful. The concept of the film is brilliant -- at least for me.

I love definitions, and like the filmmaker I am often frustrated when the definition of a word includes the root word itself. For example, when the definition of humanity, includes a reference to being human. I want a stripped down definition that takes me deeper, higher -- in a new direction.

One of my favorite definitions includes the word "humanity." In her primary textbook for spiritual healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy uses it to define the word "moral." She says:

Moral. Humanity, honesty,
affection, compassion, hope,
faith, meekness, temperance."
 

This definition turned my life upside down. Discovering that  "hope," was an act of moral courage, was empowering. To realize that there was moral strength in "meekness," brought a new sense of dignity to my life. As each of these words became more profoundly practical, their own meanings became more important.  Over time, "humanity" became as much a verb, as a noun.

I love the word. There is something so grounded in it's practical relevance, while still holding the promise of its coincidence with divinity.

I will let Ethan's video speak to you without editorial. I hope it touches your heart. Each of the songs he has chosen, has had profound meaning for me. Each has contributed to my understanding of myself, and to my place in the greater human family.

When one of Ethan's friends shared this video on Facebook, the "cover" photo was from The Turtles' 1967 performance of "Happy Together" on the Ed Sullivan Show. For me, this song was a perfect reminder for how music can help us discover the deeper humanity within ourselves.

I was 13 years old the summer of 1967. You couldn't turn on the radio, and not hear "Happy Together." I loved this song. My girlfriends and I would sing it at slumber parties with hairbrush microphones in hand. It was as close to "our song" as we would get at 13. 


Since the neighborhood pool often played "mom music" over the loud speaker, we could often be found slathered in iodine-laced baby oil, lined up on the hot cement of the pool apron, with a transistor radio nestled between every two bikini-clad girls. And when "Happy Together" came on, we closed our eyes to the world of chlorine and popsicle-smeared toddlers, and sang loudly -- and with feeling.

So, you can imagine my horror later that summer when our family took a road trip, and the first time "Happy Together" came on, my parents started singing every word with just as much joy, passion, and animation as we did.  Albeit, without the hairbrushes. The creepy part for me was clear -- they loved it too. I couldn't believe they knew it -- much less loved it.  It shook me to the core.

I had a lot of time to think during that car trip. It was two adults and six children under the again of 13, stuffed into a station wagon with luggage, food coolers, games, and books. I thought of myself as a wise, intelligent almost-adult.  I couldn't imagine interacting with that passel of toddlers and children still in grade school.  So I read and I thought. My reading arsenal was full of Proust, Cather, Harper Lee, and my first forays into Steinbeck and Camus -- with Nancy Drew on the side for intellectual relief.

Since I was in the middle of my short-lived career as a child journalist, this seemed the perfect opportunity to observe others without notice. My parents were in my most direct line of sight for hours on end.  So why not dissect them. And here is what I discovered. They were people too. They loved singing, They loved harmony. They loved thinking about being in love. And I could tell by their faces that the song touched something in them that I'd never seen before. Today I would call it melancholy or sadness. But since I never talked with them about it, I can only guess.

By the end of that trip, my parents weren't just my parents. They were human beings with feelings.  With memories of love felt, and love lost. I started to look at others through that same lens and it changed the way I felt about my place in the world. It wasn't always comforting. At times it was very unsettling to think that the people I relied on for every decision and security -- were sometimes sad, and often uncertain about their choices. But something had begun to shift in me.  I was beginning to understand that everyone - regardless of history, circumstance, or privilege - has an inner life.  I was discovering my humanity.

with Love,


Kate

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