Wednesday, November 26, 2014

40 Years Later



I have a confession to make: I’m a news junkie.

Or rather a new confession: I used to be a news junkie.

Growing up my mother rarely watched the news. It embarrassed me how uninformed my mother was. It made me wonder—her lack of curiosity. She could care less what was going on in the world as she went about her daily life. If I ever tried to engage her in the broader meaning of life she might answer me with what we were having for dinner.

It’s not that she didn’t have opinions; she did; they just lacked any sort of basis in the real world. I probably gave her less credit than was due. This is probably the case with most mothers.

Lurch forward thirty to forty years later. It is so much easier today to be a news junkie. You don’t have to try very hard. Headlines are constantly shouting at me. There are 2 newspapers in Chicago and the commuter rag, The Redeye. That’s print, and I seldom see a real newspaper these days. But, also, there’s the ubiquitous Internet where information leaches into our lives even if all we do is check Facebook. Everywhere—on our phones, on our devices, on the device of the person sitting next to us—is information. Some of it can be total crap, but it is there. Thus, there is no reason to claim being a news junkie because how can you NOT be a news junkie in 2014.

But, before I left for a three-week trip to Sweden I swore off the news. The political ads alone were driving me crazy, yet it was the ISIS beheadings that wore me down. I could not stand one more story of some relief worker or journalist losing their head. Then there was the ebola outbreak aka freak out. It was ebola all the time if it wasn’t Ferguson all the time. Somehow somewhere there was always a bad story to tell. And the bad is REALLY bad. And this kind of news can run your life.

While in Sweden I was too busy to check news. Being in another country lets a person know that their news isn’t the only news. Other countries also have top stories. America and our fears aren’t the only story. Sweden has ghost submarines to worry about.

Since returning from vacation I have continued taking a vacation from the news. So the other night when the Ferguson Grand Jury announcement came over the wires (?) I was busy doing other stuff. The news still seeped into my consciousness, but it hasn’t driven me to despair. In all the world, in the whole scope of life there have been so many Fergusons, let downs, instances of injustice. And there will continue to be. All I know is we all must go on.

Meanwhile, instead of news, I sometimes check in with art. I’m not an art junkie, but art has become a solace. A place of refuge. It can also be disturbing, bring up tons of questions without answers, but the unknowable fills me in a way that isn’t chaotic or violent or raging.

Here is my latest obsession: Brown Sisters
Nicholas Nixon was visiting his wife’s family when, “on a whim,” he said, he asked her and her three sisters if he could take their picture. It was summer 1975.

Who told this photographer he should take pictures of the Brown sisters for forty years. Who ever said this is a good idea and will actually make you a viral sensation in 2014. The photographer, husband of Bebe one of the sisters, began this photographic journey because he simply wanted to chronicle life. After 40 years he has chronicled change. Looking at these bl/wh photographs reminds me of when I used to wear high waisted pants in the 70s and was embarrassed to be seen with my mother. They remind me that I am now that woman in the picture with lines around her unsmiling mouth and eyes. I have changed too. I am not who I used to be.

Thank God.

Today, right now, write a flash of where you’re at. Next year on the eve of Thanksgiving write another. After 40 years you will have a record just like the Brown girls, words that tell you who you are.

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