Archive for September, 2016

Quote of the day: QUESTIONS

September 18, 2016

QUESTIONS

You may have wondered about the fact that I almost never answer questions during therapy. Instead I usually ask the patient to change the question into a statement. The question mark has a hook the patient may use for many purposes, such as to embarrass the other person or, more often, to prevent himself from discovering what is really going on. This asking for environmental support keeps one in the infantile state. You will find that nothing develops your intelligence better than to take any question and turn it into a genuine statement. Suddenly the background will start to open up, and the ground from which the question grows will become visible.

–Fritz Perls

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Culture Vulture/Photo diary: ART AIDS AMERICA at the Bronx Museum

September 16, 2016

(click photos twice to enlarge)

I wanted to reconnect with my old friend and colleague Jeff Weinstein, and we made a plan to take in the “Art AIDS America” show at the Bronx Museum. It amazes me that for all the time I’ve lived in New York City  (36 years), I’ve visited the Bronx only three or four times. The previous time was a revelation — the Foundry Theatre’s The Provenance of Beauty consisted of a bus tour of the South Bronx, with a poetic voiceover (text by Claudia Rankine) pointing out how vastly the neighborhood has changed and grown since the late ’70s when it was a virtual war zone. This expedition built on that impression. I enjoyed checking out the street art nearby as well as having lunch afterwards (spicy jerk chicken) at a Jamaican joint on Gerard Avenue called the Feeding Tree.

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The exhibition, co-curated by Jonathan David Katz and Rock Hushka, was a bit smaller than I expected and lived up to the mixed word-of-mouth regarding the choice of art and artists. Probably anyone who’s interested in this subject matter lives with a platonic ideal of such a show that no actual selection could match. Nevertheless, I was glad to see work by artists I admire, some of which I’d seen before (David Wojnarowicz’s intricate collage painting Bad Moon Rising), some I hadn’t (four panels from a series by Keith Haring called Apocalypse), as well as pieces by artists I’d heard of but never seen (Hunter Reynolds, whose Memorial Wedding Dress is a centerpiece of the show) and some completely new to me (Joey Terrill, whose witty canvas invites a game of spot-the-references while also being the first artwork I know of to depict Truvada, the anti-HIV medication that has revolutionized gay men’s sexual experience).

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Quote of the day: LONELINESS

September 16, 2016

LONELINESS

What does it feel like to be lonely? It feels like being hungry: like being hungry when everyone around you is readying for a feast. It feels shameful and alarming, and over time these feelings radiate outwards, making the lonely person increasingly isolated, increasingly estranged. It hurts, in the way that feelings do, and it also has physical consequences that take place invisibly, inside the closed compartments of the body. It advances, is what I’m trying to say, cold as ice and clear as glass, enclosing and engulfing…So much of the pain of loneliness is to do with concealment, with feeling compelled to hide vulnerability, to tuck ugliness away, to cover up scars as if they are literally repulsive. But why hide? What’s so shameful about wanting, about desire, about having failed to find satisfaction, about experiencing unhappiness? Why this need to constantly inhabit peak states, or to be comfortably sealed within a unit of two turned inward from the world at large?

–Olivia Laing, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

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From the deep archives: JACK HOFSISS (1950-2016)

September 16, 2016

Theater director Jack Hofsiss died this week at the age of 65. In addition to seeing a lot of his work onstage (most memorably the original Broadway production of The Elephant Man and Paul Rudnick’s first play in New York, Poor Little Lambs), I had the pleasure of interviewing him for The Advocate in 2000, 15 years after the diving accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. The occasion for the interview was his production of a play called Avow, which dealt with the subject of gay marriage. Hofsiss had some very interesting things to say about the subject, coming from his background being taught by Jesuits in high school.

“I learned from the Jesuits not just to accept what is given to you but to think about it,” he said. “There was a sense of questioning. They shared the fact that ultimately your relationship to God is your own thing, that you can be gay and have a relationship with the God of the Catholic Church. That’s one of the big issues in this play, the refusal of these guys to take second-class citizenship. Instead of saying, ‘My love precludes me from being a Catholic,’ to say ‘My love enables me to be a Catholic. My love is love. Love is God. God is love.’ That’s the journey.”

You can read the complete text of my article online here. Let me know what you think.

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Quote of the day: COMFORT

September 15, 2016

COMFORT

Not long ago, I asked a graduate teaching assistant to give a guest lecture. “But I’m not comfortable talking in front of that many people,” she said. At first, I was flabbergasted. What was she doing in a program that often leads to a teaching job? Then I remembered: She is part of a generation reared to believe that feelings are paramount and that life requires trigger warnings. Like many things, these ideas grew from good intentions – combating prejudice. But they came to mean that no one should ever feel uncomfortable. This is a counterproductive, even dangerous, notion. We cannot be protected from every risk and challenge. If we were, we would never learn anything. The best way to get comfortable – and good – at something is to do it, even in the presence of severe phobias. Research shows that immediate exposure to a feared experience is the best treatment.

As a graduate student, I was devastated when my papers were rejected by academic journals. It seemed like a condemnation of my choice of a profession. I thought it wouldn’t happen once I’d “made it.” I’ve now published more than 120 papers, and most still get rejected on the first try. I’m no longer devastated by rejections – but I am not comfortable when they arrive. Nor was I comfortable writing my first book. It was a struggle. But if my papers sailed through the review process, they would be worse. If I had decided to quit while writing the book, or not start it at all, I would have been more comfortable in the moment – but missed the opportunities it opened.

If you are comfortable, you are not learning. Feeling uncomfortable is not a reason to reject an opportunity. It’s a reason to embrace it.

–Jean Twenge, “Comfort Is Overrated,” Psychology Today

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