Our May Blog Post: " Who Is the Man with The Briefcase?"
"The quotidian is not the most important thing; it's the only thing. All human evil reflects a fleeing from and denial of this truth."
The above quote was an original one of mine.
It was my version of Blaise Pascal's “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Traditionally May 1st is the holiday celebration of all people who are wage earners who work for someone else, whether their labor is manual/physical or mental.
It is the authentic and regional labor day.
Both self identified socialists and anarchists celebrate the day as it represents a vision of a future more liberated and freer than the past, thus there has been protest built into the celebration.
Our podcast, of course, is neither a political nor religious one in theme.
Yet no less of an artist than John Cassavetes describes the "small" moments in his films concerning "ordinary" people as the most "revolutionary" things that exist.
He was a big influence on this podcast, not only because of his films, but because he placed art itself on the highest level.
Sometimes I think that all works of art, even the ones that wear the mask of the world historic event for a narrative really aim to make all things quotidian, that is, relatable in an individualized, moment to moment sense.
We always experience art works in the present; they always become "durational" even if they don't involve space and time but physical mass.
One of my chief characteristics that is always with me, but I rarely acknowledge except in forums like this one, is my devotion and love for the quotidian (I don't know what else to call it) as opposed to grand and sweeping/historical moments.
One of the things I have hated about the past four to five years has precisely been their bigness and drama; they seem artificially made for the history books.
In one episode with guest Amanda Maciel Antunes I was was quite explicit about my preference and can be heard expressing this at somewhat greater length than here.
Of course the cause of workers' liberation was always about ultimate liberation for all of humanity, most broadly construed and understood.
It was never about employment alone or the fact of employment.
This is why it was only the most natural thing in the world for many other groupings of people to come forward crying out for liberation, not only on the basis of work or employment but many other matters of consequence.
If you think about liberation long enough you realize that bigness of deterministic narratives was always the chief way of squeezing us into boxes not of our own making.
I suppose many people make themselves grand heroes in their own stories; I realize that if they were writing this post, or reading it, they might have a great deal with which to argue; sometimes friends of mine cry out that they want to change the world and seem to want to be where the biggest or most important things are happening.
I was never like this at all temperamentally.
In fact I made decisions in my life in order to avoid things that seemed too "big" or involved too many people. I don't think it is an accident that I chose a musical instrument as self contained as the piano, for example.
However big something is though, it must eventually be brought down to earth and "to size."
But my main point about liberation is that universality is baked into the concept from the beginning. As for grand creations, if you examine even the bigger things they are essentially made up of little step by step moves at a time.
Some works of art can be grand spectacles and I actually love these.
Is this a contradiction?
You can watch Kubrick's 2001 or Leonard Bernstein conduct Beethoven's Ninth in Berlin of 1989.
(In fact you ought to.)
But,I would maintain that both come out of what were originally small, step by step, materials.
You have the string section or the wind section and this soprano or that baritone. Kubrick has all of these shots that have to be assembled; his team included people doing all of this elaborate art direction but it was the work of all of these individuals with their personal touches culminating in the whole.
Hell, when people prepare big movies they start off reading pages seated at a table!
See how that works?
For thirty plus years I lived a very specific - and rigorously so - kind of life.
I now know how much I loved this period in a way I perhaps did not acknowledge with sufficient gratitude then.
Many of the things in that life have been completely gone from my current life - since first the move to this small town, and then Covid.
I never gave a second's thought that any of the things that I really loved during that time would ever be gone from my life.
Recently I have become mindful, usually from basic comparison of "notes", that for many people there were things in the prior era that were not loved and for those things to have been taken away during this same time, was not a great loss but the greatest relief.
You can't really compare thirty-five years to two or three years, at least in the sense of comparison I mean, because something like the literal sense of thirty-five years being "way" longer than two or three.
When you do anything for so many years you sort of get really good at whatever it is you did; like practicing a musical instrument.
To name but one example, in those three decades I was a late night person.
One of my biggest joys what the 34 hour diner in Boston where I would hang out with or watch people and write late into the night sometimes to 4 or 5 in the morning.
To say that what I observed there was interesting would be an understatement.
I became very comfortable with the people who would be at a place like that in the city at those hours of the night and morning and I was very much accepted in that environment.
I am sure many of them were most curious at my "straight edge" ways. I never smoked or drank or did any other kinds of controlled substances but I was accepting of people who did of course especially in a place like that where you would have to be so tolerant.
Since lockdown and living in this rural town there are a thousand people living around me rather eight or nine million. (That is a big difference in itself).
I remember places like that diner as vividly as if were last night.
One of the most interesting things I learned moving to where I currently live is that a great many people hate - and I mean really hate - the prospect of being in a place like that diner or having to relate or be in the presence of the people found there.
The thing of it is, I loved all the people that came to that diner.
About half of them had really rough lives, the roughest lives any person could have. Some of them made a practice of harming others in their lives. When they tried to bring that into the diner that had to be taken care of. Yet they all had things about them I could love. It never occurred to me at that time that a great many people might be frightened or feel threatened by them.
It all reminds me of a visit I made once to San Francisco.
A woman I had attended New England Conservatory with had moved to San Francisco and was living there; I was there on a vacation and we all planned to meet up there this must have been 1989, '90 and her family came to visit.
We found ourselves attending some kind of Gay/Queer Pride float , somewhere around Castro.
Now the first thing you must understand about this event is that I was asked to show up at this event.
I was staying at the Francis Hotel.
It was not my idea at all. Now as luck would have it, being an aesthetic person I was of course quite taken with this event.
Unbeknownst to me (and this is one of those wonderful examples of my autism in action) I think her parents were put off, maybe even offended by this parade.
So this person - we will call Mary - probably set up this whole thing for many complex reasons. She was torn between trying to expose her conservative parents to something she felt they should not hate or at least be exposed to and the desire, to, well, not offend her parents and she is dating this man who didn't care about any of that, certainly least of all about her parents' feelings but what was in front of me.
I found the parade simple breathtaking in its creativity and beauty. A Gay Pride parade in San Francisco is kind of a big deal.
I had never been to anything like it and I got the feeling that Mary wanted to leave during it. But you see I had all of this background information going in that Mary and her family probably did not have. For starters being exposed to Joe Orton plays my dad had produced, or seeing Charles Ludlam plays as a child in 1970s New York.
My date at the time made this remark. "Mitch you sure are so liberal!"
I suspect I wanted to stay and they wanted to leave. And she of course had made all sorts of assumption about me, thus her comment "You're SO liberal." I never knew, and don't now, whether this was a mere compliment, an expression of exasperation at her situation with her family and me, or simply surprise that I was more of this thing she called "liberal" than se had assumed. I try in my life to make as few assumptions as possible except for what I actually observe (and I do take my observations seriously, as we all should, but with the "meta" conviction that observations too can be faulty, that is, with humility.
The older I get the more I see the truth of what Steven Reiss was trying to get at, at how we are so different from each other. And more currently as a favorite scientist is trying to urge us to do as well.
If you think about it then, this podcast is a form of a connection with the world, sort of like the diner, even the coffee is about as good (which you would only know if you came to my house where it is recorded).
Indeed, its very premise is that connection, more than any other theme or subject.
All art comes from consciousness which is a means of connection form person to person. It is this connection that will happen no matter what else happens.
Our logo shows the person with the briefcase going out into the world, a traveller, a nomad of sorts. This person craves human connection.
This person was intended to represent me, your host.
But in truth we all eventually have to leave or home in some manner; first we should know how to be at home alone, as Pascal says, but then we are going to have to venture out into the world.
Thus the person in our logo might be any of us at any time.
".......to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol