• What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who only has eyes, if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he is a poet, or even, if he is a boxer, just his muscles? Far from it: at the same time he is also a political being, constantly aware of the heartbreaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people, and with a cool indifference to detach yourself from the very life which they bring to you so abundantly? No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war. Pablo Picasso

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I Actually Got to Go to the Service Today

The thing about teaching Sunday school is of course that it happens on Sunday, and more relevantly, at the same time as the service, so my church life this year has been, largely, ‘go to the announcements and first hymn, then head to class’, which means I haven’t had things to say about sermons.

But today I wasn’t teaching, so I got to actually stay for the sermon, very exciting.

“What can I, as an individual, do to make a difference to this world problem?”
“Stop being an individual!”

That wasn’t actually from the sermon, but the opening words, but it’s sure a thing. And it’s something that I have wrestled with all my life – most of my life as an unrecognizedly neurodiverse person – not just because I was stuck on the cultural norm that I could save the world by my own individual (usually consumer) actions, but because my reaction to groups of people is to feel like an alien who’s going to be caught impersonating a human being all the time and this is one of those things that’s maybe a bit stressful.

Joining – trying – is an act of bravery and I am exhausted by it all the time, and this is a time that requires more bravery of me now and I don’t know what to do.

Which was, conveniently, one of the topics of the sermon.

Which was about Martin Luther King, Jr., of course, for it is the season for MLK sermons, but not ringing speeches and the like – about him as a human confronted with the hugeness of the task before him. About having twenty minutes to write a speech and spending the first five panicking about having twenty minutes to write a speech. About humility and bravery and all those things.

I am not good at bravery, or perhaps I am very good at bravery but constantly running at 95% cap, see above. I genuinely don’t know. I just know that the shape of the world – combined with the shape of my training – means that it is getting actively uncomfortable for me to pretend to conform, to comply, to fit in, never mind that that is the skill that has enabled me to impersonate a human being with occasional marginal success.

It hurts to pretend, raw, ripping pain, and I am afraid.

Recently, I watched a whole lot of pain explode all over a whole lot of things, and despite being entirely on the sidelines, I was definitely in the splatter pattern, and that pain hit right there, in this space where what I need to do as a human within the context of my political reality is to become more visible, more overt, more present, more genuine, more of a target, and where I cannot feel confident that there is a together-with to join in. Not after seeing people say that the things that reflected the truth of where I’m coming from were obvious lies that could only be put forward by… well, someone who isn’t me either even plausibly, but here I am, again, being the space alien.

It’s hard to be brave.

But I come back to – and I told the minister who gave the sermon – this podcast interview with Elena Rose Vera I listened to this week, after having it open in a tab since (checks dates) July, apparently. Particularly one bit of it, about being a street medic, where the whole concept of “deserves” falls away, and the only question is: “does this person need care, and do I have the skills and the stuff in my bag to provide it”.

I don’t know who deserves what and I can’t, but I can see what’s in my bag.

And that’s what I’m going to have to keep doing.

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