Thoughts

Light in the whirlwind

​​Emerging from the snowstorms, the stomach norovirus that hit a third of students in a Chicago school and whatever else that has knocked tough Americans hard this winter, spring appears to have arrived. Now, especially on weekends, the mind drifts to relaxing and vacations. The modern life is to work hard for days off. So at the first taste of spring in New York last Saturday, many like a swarm of ants burst into the glorious warmth in search of sweetness, only to find the storm rages on.

Conversation today is often tinged with uncertainty and weariness. The city is hurting, I feel. The American heartland miles away is suffering. Across the ocean is more confusion, frustration and worries about a host of different problems. Many were promised a much better world that hasn’t arrived.

An image of high school, college, career, house, family — repeat — seems increasingly out of reach or misguided wisdom. For that and other rulebooks on how to live, love and work have been thrown out, partly out of necessity. Technology, specifically social media, has “literally swamped and reprogrammed” the human brain, Axios’ Jim VandeHei and Sara Fischer report. In the new state of mind is more distrust, more hand wringing and books like Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future and Thank you for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in an Age of Accelerations, both published late last year. The world is shaking beneath the feet of many people and the tree of civilization that birthed them has less of a trunk for them to lean on.

If this is a dark age of uncertainty, the search for light is more intense than ever. Some write or draw – daily. Others throw themselves into starting their own companies and raising their families. The way forward is forged by creative power.

The power is more than simple expression or communication — it is showing a glimpse of beauty. French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier said last year at the New York Film Festival that when he was weak and struggling, directors gave him hope in darkness. Their masterpieces showed him beauty. And what then unfurls in his 3 hour-long Journey through French Cinema is a heartfelt illumination of beauty in four decades of French film, beginning with pieces made during the French resistance to German Nazi occupation. At the time, Tavernier says in another interview, filmmakers realized their role was to show “a little light” on how the people lived. Their work then created masterpieces for decades to come.

Creative power in America is already at work in an effort to try to understand and find beauty. By one account tonight’s Oscars will not find, as in the past, a single film to “define the country, and its people, all at once.” Rather, Peter Suderman writes in The New York Times, that the nine films present a vision “of the variety of American identities … there is no one American story but a variety of specific and unique American stories.”

Create in film. Create in words and leadership. Create in family and communities. In such small bursts the tree trunk rediscovers the strength from its roots and grows, ring by ring, into a shelter in the storm.

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