This topic is not the original intent I had for this blog post. I’ve been sitting on this draft for about a week now. I had wanted to talk about the movie Super 8, which I rewatched with my family after I returned from ALAMW13. I was inspired by the catchy line delivered by the 2011 movie’s protagonist Joe Lamb. I thought it held a significant idea encapsulated in a compact info-package worthy of a blog post. But I had trouble putting my thoughts together in a coherent enough manner.
Then, last night, I heard Sherman Alexie speak at University of Redlands. My first time to hear him in person. Things fell into place in my head. He delivered the same message as Joe Lamb: “Bad things happen. But you can still live.” Not the same words. But similar idea and spirit. The injustice and suffering we experience need not be for nothing. The anger we harbor can fuel our artistic, creative, and aesthetic endeavors. And by living I mean feeding and growing one’s soul through art and creative work: writing, painting, drawing, dancing, or performing.
Alexie spoke of the grinding poverty he knew as a child growing up on an Indian reservation in the Spokane, Washington area. When you are dirt poor, he said, your basic hungers for food, shelter, safety, and physical comforts become one with your spiritual and emotional hungers. Basically, that’s nice, dear. But it doesn’t fill my belly. What do you do when that’s your reality?
For Sherman, the answer was he had to get out of the rez. The consequences of his decision to leave were not (are not) easy to bear. There was the challenging question: “You think you’re better than us?” Wait, don’t answer that. Whether you think so or not, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a trick question. You’re damned either way. Then there’s the biting, corrosive self-loathing. So, in sum, you get beat up or ostracized by others because they think you’re full of yourself, then you beat yourself up because you think you’re a colossal idiot for wanting more out of life. And yeah, you are full of yourself because you’re full of shizz. Oh, joy. What writer, what artist or creative person, does not know this old familiar tune?
So we crack jokes and tell stories. We laugh. We do this so we can go on and keep on living. So, live.