a few weeks ago, for a video project at work, i spent several hours watching unused footage from a documentary about the childhood of artist _____ _____. because i have worked for the family of this man for many, many years, some of what i saw & heard was already familiar to me, & although i am familiar with his work, his writing & much of his life, i still find little revelations popping up in his story-telling (truth & fiction) that are completely captivating & charming.
even when the tale was one i’ve heard or read several times in the past, he could & did sometimes add a little nugget not revealed before that made the telling all the more revelatory. & naturally, as he was never without a pencil & a pad/sheet/stack of paper, he would draw to illustrate (sometimes) what it was he was talking about; at other times he would draw almost as if it were an automatic extension of the words not coming from his mouth (letting the drawing do the talking.)
as happens whenever you have this kind of familiarity with a subject, what may on the surface seem/be familiar, depending on what’s happening in your life, the moment/the word/the deed may resonate more deeply with you than it had in the past. so during this several hour project i found myself listening to little explosions of truth that seemed directly aimed at my own life.
i believe we can all agree that that’s what gives reading/watching/listening (i.e. involved in the enjoyment of the arts) its purpose (resonating with our lives.) those moments when you discover yourself inside a work of literature, art, music, dance. it could be that you recognize yourself, a characterization, a reflection of your personality, the resolution of a problem in your life in the words/thoughts/deeds/movement of an artist.
this is what i heard in one of the videotapes: “my wife & i decided early on that we did not want to argue, ever. instead of asking why, we ask ‘what happened?’ and that has made all the difference in our relationship.”
no accusatory ‘why?’ instead the engaging ‘what happened?’ tell me what happened. that simple turn of phrase completely diffuses any situation & puts you both on the same side. of course, it takes some strength of character to manage that, because aren’t we all wanting to be on the right side? the side of reason/truth/beauty? but by simply saying ‘what happened?’ you balance the scales & can calmly proceed to learn to meet head-on & manage the little conflicts & upsets that plague all relationships.
warning: it’s not as easy at sounds. i am still working on bringing that phrase to the light of day. i will say that i am at the point of at least recognizing that it’s an option & i believe i may have used it (it works!), but don’t expect overnight success. you may expect a softening, a deflation of overwrought emotion, a stillness will descend, a conversation will follow, resolution will be at hand (easily in reach, instead of a distant shore.)
tell me, what happened.