• T-Dub
  • 20
  • Feb
  • 08

It’s an interesting word. People look for it in their newscasters, and in their politicians. Lotta’ folks work hard to anchor their lifestyles to the philosophies espoused by the word. If there’s one thing New Englanders are often criticized for, it usually has to do with our generally introverted natures that though friendly, tend to radiate an over developed sense of “dignity, seriousness or solemnity of manner”.

Though personally, I’ve always felt that stereotype was created by people visiting the area who attempted to strike up a conversation with one of us, outside, sometime from November through March. They mistook our hurrying stoically onward as dismissal perhaps, instead of correctly reading it as: “You know? It’s ass cold out here, how ’bout we talk inside? Race you.” Or in the Summer months, transpose ‘cold’ to ‘hot and humid’ and you yield the same scenario. The one thing most New Englanders can agree on, is that we’re never happy about the weather. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it, but our relationship to our climate is probably the single most important key to our psychology.

Anyway. When Rob buzzed me the other night via IM, wondering if I’d be willing to undermine his blog by contributing to it, the first thought that ran through my head was that I lacked the proper amount of gravitas. I’m not one to follow politics closely, or take them as seriously as I often feel I should when I do. My interest in technology is fairly narrow and regulated to how many waveforms or filter types something might be able to produce, as opposed to whether or not something is Bluetooth compatible or HD ready (though, for the record: Bluetooth-compatible MIDI and audio interfaces, controllers and rack gear/sound modules would be kick ass). Punk rock I can maybe do, though I can’t remember one band’s name from another to save my life. I also don’t get out much, being able to work from home like I do and in between trying to earn a buck, I juggle a family that includes a ten year old who’s already surpassing my ability on the Wii, and a five month old who has a taste for fingers and likes to giggle. There’s not a lot I take seriously, as just getting from one end of the day to the other and from one paycheck to the next in one piece, tends to exhaust my patience for ’serious’. I even had to look up ‘gonzo journalism’.

It was the week around last New Year’s Eve. My family and I were up in Camden, ME visiting a close friend who lives and works at the Camden Public Library, which is probably just about the prettiest library I’ve ever seen. The library often features art showings, highlighting the work done by local artists. The first day we were in Camden, also happened to be the last day of a showing by a couple of really nice people. They work in mixed media, utilizing anything from paint, to photographs, to dolls, blocks and other small toys or objects. I’m not one to usually appreciate art, but I really dug what they were doing. Originally from Kentucky, they apparently split the state in favor of Maine, when their own local library began removing and banning certain books based that didn’t support, largely, certain conservative religious beliefs.After getting a chance to meet them, my friend and they were well acquainted as they often visited the library, and speak with them, I offered to lend a hand in carrying their artwork out to the waiting cars as they broke their showing down. It was icy out. I am not a naturally dexterous man.

The piece I was carrying at the time, was a wooden box type of thing, that was partitioned off by other wooden blocks so a grid of sorts was created. The box was painted very colorfully. Within each small ‘room’, they’d placed a number of seemingly random objects like blocks with various words written on their sides, flowers, and what have you. Many of these objects were not in any way secured to the piece. The price tag for the piece was around $1400. That was the first thing that ran through my mind as my feet went out from under me, having found a particularly insidious ice patch. The second thought revolved largely around the pieces that began to leap from their little homes, taking flight as they hurled themselves en masse to scitter about on the icy road in a rush to explore this whole ‘free range’ thing they’d heard about, as I scrambled to regain my balance. The third and last thought consisted of me figuring out how I might best shift my weight in order to throw myself backwards, effectively taking the bullet for the team by landing solidly on my back, but at least most of the piece might be salvaged. But gravity got distracted, and I kept my feet.

The artists concern was immediate, and it was solely for me. The blocks and other odds and ends were quickly recovered, dusted off, and placed back into the piece with enthusiasm, in different positions, in different little homes. I could only stammer apologies. These however were in turn met with hearty laughs and twinkling eyes. “The name of the piece is ‘Oracle’,” they explained. “What just happened was perfect! It was like…casting the bones or something! You got to help us recreate this piece! We think that’s fantastic!” I didn’t know how to respond to the situation. Normally when one is on the bad side of: “Uh…I broke your thing that you spent a lot of time and effort on…I’m…sorry…” they don’t normally expect a response of: “You didn’t break it! You helped make it -better-!”

The artists went on to explain that their pieces were designed to be touched, explored, interacted with. They wanted people, especially children, to just relax and enjoy their artwork without fear of what can be summed up as, having to stay on the other side of the velvet rope called ‘gravitas’. Art, like life, they explained, needed to be fun, because life is tough enough as it is. People, they stated, forget to appreciate that we have a world within which we can explore and wonder and dream. They, they said, want to help people out of that mindset. They want to teach people to explore, to dream, to wonder. They also host fairy tea parties.

That experience, for whatever reason, really drove home a certain point. It was certainly one that I’d begun to pick up during my time with the Shaft (our approach to music contrasting many of the bands we played with), but it was lost during these past few years in the face of various trials and tribulations. The opportunity to be happy, to make others happy, and to simply enjoy the world around us together, is a rare and precious thing. Many people are unfortunately denied this. To my mind, this mandates that those of us who are blessed with such freedom need to embrace it fully, in spite of the weighty responsibilities and stresses most of us carry. Leave your gravitas at the door, please. There’s wonder out there, and I’ve a previously unrecognized invitation to go out and revel in it with as many people as I can, and I aim to take the world up on that invitation.