Ian’s little sister Michelle here. I just returned from a night at the pool hall where I, if I may, *smoked* everyone in sight. Such releases are desperately good for my soul… particularly since at the gym today, five meatheads were mean to me, so my revenge is to spank their kind over a green velvet table.
Anyway, tonight’s blog is not about my prowess at billiards. Tonight is the first night, since the birth of la Lucy, that Ian and Tessa have been away from her. I hear tell they are skiing somewhere, at a somewhat “corny” resort, and living it up with a lake view and a fireplace. It sounds wonderful, and they most certainly deserve a blessed night off. And thus, kind readers, you are stuck with me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to move people, and what exactly moves people- moves them to change, to take action, of any kind, be it in their own lives or for a specific cause or whatever. What compels us to do something that is even ever so slightly different than what we did the day before? When Ian wrote the blog about the “ten things you can do for the environment”, or whatever it was, why exactly did those of you who did buy low-emissions light bulbs? Is it because it’s the right thing to do, or is it more because you care about Ian, or are moved by his writing? Or a little of both? If someone who was even half as eloquent with the written word had made such a suggestion, would you have paid attention?
I’m thinking about this because yesterday I attended the California Arts Council statewide conference- which they’ve not had the funding to host in over four years- and I had the rare opportunity to hear Dana Gioia speak. Gioia is the Chairman of the NEA, and my god, one of the best speakers I’ve ever seen live. He’s a poet, and quite accustomed to the public eye, but his ease, his humor, his brilliance- he could have been, as they say, reading the phone book, and I would have been mesmerized. Instead, he was talking about arts, and arts advocacy, which is the very thing I spend each day doing myself, and I could barely breathe. Annette Benning also spoke, and she was lovely, and numerous other folks as well, but Gioia was something altogether different. So inspiring, and so refreshing, and so moving, and so incredibly sincere, hilarious, and *real* that it was hard to believe he was addressing 450 people.
I know I’m a good public speaker, but he was eons, light years, beyond what I am now, someone who commands respect even while he’s totally screwing around. NEVER self-deprecating, NEVER apologetic, because why in the hell should he be?
And it’s times like these that I realize how massive social shifts happen. It’s hard to imagine how Hitler could have been so successful in his horrid mission; it’s hard to comprehend what Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished in such a short lifetime. I know these are opposite spectrum folks, but from what I’ve learned, both were captivating speakers, and experiencing them was nothing short of infectious.
I think what I’m taking away from this is that change is possible, so clearly possible, even when people insist that it is not. Case in point: 30 years ago, if someone in the Bay Area said they were going to Napa Valley, it meant they were going to the insane asylum that still thrives in the city of Napa. Napa Valley was for “loonies”, as they were called. Now, to go to Napa Valley means visiting a world-class wine & food destination. So when people tell me that Napa Valley will never be an arts destination, I’m realizing I should just give them the metaphorical finger- or, at the least, realize that they just don’t know. But it is strange that it is not facts & figures, not reports or information, that move people- it’s people with an incredible gift of the gab that move people. So those with that gift should think long and hard about what they want to do in this world, because, in my experience, they are the only ones who can really create change.
And so, to a question, since that seems to be the order of the day on Ian’s blog: if you had this gift, what would you fight for? I mean, beyond politics- seriously. If you could talk large groups of people into seeing the light as you see it, what would be your issue? What, outside the leadership and direction of our country, would drive you to the soapbox? This can be anything- from advocating for the use of a particular product to massive change in our social strata. What, if you had this gift, would you fight for? Hot dogs and buns being sold in the same numbers? Universal yoga classes? Increased funding & support for all expectant mothers? What?