So, here is the long awaited new post. Sorry. I started back at work two weeks ago and have been attempting (unsuccessfully) to find a balance between writing and working.
I also need to get into the habit of actually writing down my inspirations as they come to me because every time I sit down to write a new plunder, I am stumped about what has been inspiring me for the week even though I know there were a bunch.
This week I’m continuing my exploration of quotes. Here is Part 2.
I’ll lead off with a quote from Alice Walker which is an undercurrent in my motivation for Eve of Destruction, which used to be called In the Name of the Children.
“The most important question in the world is, ‘Why is the child crying?’” Alice WalkerSuch a simple idea but it penetrates to the core. “Why is the child crying?” It should be the question that we look at in every moment of our lives. I suppose it is also the thread that runs through My Mother’s Daughters. Children are so innocent. Their feelings are determined by basic needs, not by ulterior motives, so if a child is crying, then one of their needs are not being met. Whether it be food, shelter, love or safety; a crying child symbolizes something wrong with the environment that they are in. Eve of Destruction (EoD) examines how hate and fear are propagated through generations and instilled in children from the time they are born. One scene has a child crying and running from a soldier sent to rescue her because the soldier is wearing the same uniform as the men who led her family away, never to return. She learned to fear men dressed like that. We need to look at what our children (not only ones that we’ve birthed, but all the children of the world) are seeing. What messages are we sending them? As a global community, we are all responsible for the children of this world because they will grow up to make the decisions that influence our lives and we better be prepared to like the generation we’ve created.
Which brings me to:
“I am afraid we must make the world honest before we can honestly say to our children that honesty is the best policy.” Sir Walter Besant
What are we teaching our children? What do they see and what do they learn from our example? Like most other animals, children become what they learn from those who raise them (again, I’m not only speaking directly to parents, but everyone who comes in contact with a child; so everyone). We cannot expect our children to be better than we are; where will they learn how? If we are constantly striving to be better ourselves, then they may learn it, but not before. There is the quote that is often attributed to Ghandi “be the change you want to see in the world”. There will never be any other way to make it happen. This is highlighted through the media in EoD. The selective or misrepresented information that is constantly bombarding our senses through the various media outlets shapes our opinions and ideas and it is only when we can separate ourselves and look at the information from a critical perspective that we can find and demand the truth from it. And when it comes to our children, we must be the siphons through which information is disseminated. We need to filter what messages they are receiving and be diligent about how it is presented to them.
The next quote ties into EoD but echoes the theme in my short play Factory. This play has been sitting in a file on my computer for years in need of a little tender love, but the core structure and plot is there. It is about a group of workers that go on strike due to poor working conditions and the factory owner who refuses to meet their demands, saying that he can wait longer than they can and eventually the strength of the union will falter and the people will come back to work for lower pay and longer hours when the going gets tough. In the end (spoiler alert), only one man remains and eventually dies outside the factory because he is unwilling to comprise his belief that the way they were be treated was unjust. So, it should come as no surprise that one of my favourite playwrights has the following quote:
“The strongest man in the world is he who stands alone.” Henrik Ibsen
It is easy to stand with everyone else and protest, but it takes much more strength and courage to continue to stand when everyone else has abandoned the cause. We see it all the time. When the pressure is too high, people fold. I am no exception. It is hard to be the only one fighting for something. Not only due to the lack of support, but because you start to doubt yourself and the value of the fight or if you are even correct in your beliefs if no one else is willing to stand with you. It is something that I constantly wrestle with and as I get deeper into my writing, it is a thought that creeps up more and more. How do I deal with controversy? What happens if people get really angry with my opinions? Do I have the strength to stand by my convictions, even if they are not popular? I would like to say yes, but you can never know the answer until you are tested.
When these feelings creep up, I look to the quote by Elizabeth Cady Stanton:
”The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Like The Man in Factory, there is constantly an internal struggle within each of us between what we believe and our longing to fit into the tribe. But Stanton’s quote is true: when we falter from the truth within our souls, we betray the deepest part of ourselves; and if we can’t live with ourselves, then what is the point of living in the first place. This is the truth that The Man reflects. He would rather starve and die outside the Factory than betray his own belief and bend to the wills of policy. His wife and children come to plead with him to go back to work like the other men, but he says that he can’t because if he did, he would no longer be a man but an animal bent to serve its masters. I remember hearing a news story recently about a politician who voted against the teachers’ union in the recent disputes, she was quoted as saying that she personally did not agree with the decision but needed to vote that way for the benefit of her party and the security of her job. I got into an argument with a friend who supported her daring at speaking to the media about disagreeing with the decision even though she voted to support it. I called it cowardice. My friend pointed out that she would have lost her job if she had voted against it and at least she was speaking out to the world that the decision was wrong. My argument was that she was in a position to make a stand against the vote and decided not to and then to save face talked about how she didn’t like doing it. Where is the honour in that? I can’t say what I would have done in her position but I would hope that I could have made a stand if I felt the decision was wrong; or if not, had the courage to not fold to the nearest camera to protect my own reputation.
“It is not only for what we do that we are held responsible, but also for what we do not do.” Molière
Like that politician, she cannot be lauded for disagreeing with the decision because she had the opportunity to act and did not. She may have had very sound and personal reasons for what she did, but she made a choice to behave in a way that was to her benefit and not for the greater good. That is cowardice in politics. It is not representing what is best for the people she was elected to represent. She should not have her job. For me, it is through my writing that I try to make a stand. To bring light to things that hide in the dark. We all have to ask ourselves: what is the price of our silence? Do we take a stand for the things in which we believe or are we content to hide among the masses? It can be lonely to be the only one standing for something, but I have found that it does not take long to find others who will stand alongside. Sometimes the most courageous thing is to be the first to speak.
Tonight, I had the first read of our upcoming production of Empty Boxes. As a writer, this is a terrifying time. You have no clue whether what you wrote will covey the messages you intended or if anyone else can relate to the experiences about which you have written. Doubt plagues your every thought and you want to scream and run the other way, yelling “I’ve made a mistake, let’s not do this!” Tonight was inspiring. We read the play and then everyone sat around sharing stories of the times they experienced the situations of the characters in the play. Someone needs to start the conversation before others can join. It’s the starting out that is the scary part. If listen to your true self, to the part of you that connects with your fellow man, you will find the scary decisions are rarely the wrong ones.
Books referenced in this post (look for them at your local bookstore):
1001 Smartedt Things Ever Said edited by Steven D. Price