Culture, Beauty, and Pain

Culture informs our craft more than I often consider.  If I hope to reach my audience on a personal level, their experiences in our culture inform how they relate to everything I do.  My place in society is crucial too.  How do I relate to others?  All this matters.  Even if culture is not overt in our site, or not featured in the stories we tell, its power is present.

There’s a whole lot of beauty in the cultural fabric we share.  Food, art, acts of compassion, people uniting to overcome adversity…the list goes on.  And in the subject matter we interpret, there’s also plenty of beauty to be found.  Beauty is great.  It is a powerful motivator and its presence is key to physical and mental health for us humans.  It is easy to work with and celebrating what’s beautiful should permeate our work.  The sticky thing about beauty though; if everything was beautiful, beauty would cease to exist.

It’s easier for me (and most of the masses) to experience beauty than pain, but pain is a powerful player in our culture.  If our interpretation is going to achieve Freeman Tilden’s fifth principle—presenting a whole rather than a part and addressing the whole person—pain should be considered.  What got me thinking about this was a workshop I took recently.

The training dealt with diversity, equity, and inclusion, which are all wide-ranging topics I will not attempt to tackle in a few paragraphs.  They are also frequently politicized and I won’t get into that but there were a few ideas presented about approaching difficult subjects that I think are applicable to our profession:

  • Setting intention toward learning is more effective than seeking perfection
  • Failing in the name of learning is natural
  • Discomfort is different from injury
  • Nurturing and nourishing creates connections
  • Intentions are important but not a substitute for considering impact

I hope this is thought provoking.  I look forward to thought provocation at the NAI regional conference in less than a month!  I hope to see you there.  Cheers, Eli

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