My current side project with the arts organization I work with, aside from being the largest and most complicated thing I’ve ever done, has, in the course of my research, forced me to confront some of the very darkest sides of the American people in terms of sheer blind hatred and vitriol. And that has been really difficult for me to deal with. It felt very much necessary for the project, but having the weight of all that knowledge pushing down on me made it that much more difficult to solve the problems I needed to solve logistically while simultaneously making a statement artistically.
I am not someone who shies away from the uglier parts of humanity. It is, after all, a very real part of who we are as a species, and to ignore the reality of our inherent chaos creates very dangerous situations both personally and on a societal level, in my opinion. So when I discover new (to me) lows, I wade right in and immerse myself in the muck. I experience the darkness as fully as I can, coming from my particular upbringing and background, and attempt to come to terms with it as it is. I know I can’t manipulate it, can’t zap it away, but I have to somehow be able to wrap my mind around it. For my creative projects, if I block away the ugliness, it makes my work feel inauthentic. In life, acknowledging and accepting that part of humanity makes me more compassionate and empathetic, and it gives me the occasional opportunity to help draw others out of their own darkness. But the process is exhausting and emotionally painful. The biggest risk is losing all of my hope, but it is in those very fragile moments that the most growth and understanding occurs.
I’m moving forward now. I’ve got my direction for the project, and I’ve come to at least a temporary understanding of the darkness again. I may need to reflect some more after I get through my contractual obligations, but for the moment, I’m back to my usual self.