Art, in Crisis

Global crisis seems to be at an apex: or as some argue, things have always been this bad, we just didn't have the international media and technologies to hear about it. In any case, there are many feelings of powerless frustrating flying around in the hearts and minds us here in Canada with lives being relatively secure and unaffected by these tragedies at a fundamental level, (we still have food, water and shelter, except for the deplorable water disaster on northern Manitoba reserves, which barely anyone seems to be talking about). And for my artistic associates here, there exists an added layer of privileged guilt, making it difficult to believe that our creative endeavors are meaningful, necessary, or in the least impactful or helpful. Browsing the CBC website, I came across an interview with authors Joy Kogawa and Kyo Maclear, talking about how we make sense of tragedy. Kogawa says that, “When you hear [about] something like that [disaster], there's a certain mechanism that happens, a closing down of immediate response. It takes time to digest these things. Sometimes people never get to the point where they can take it in." I have definitely witnessed this 'numbing' reaction, in myself and around me.

But both authors conclude that art has a central role in searching for and finding meaning amid crisis. Beyond the popular use of art as a platform for raising awareness (and money), Maclear says "Poetry can't heal the wounds — the physical wounds. It can't address that immediacy of what's happening in the epicentre now, of people losing family members and homes. It can't salve that hurt, but I think that what it can do is provide a space for reflection and mourning and grief." Kogawa puts it beautifully: "I think of art as the tool with which I can go to the places that I most fear, in order to overcome the power of fear."

In a very similar way yoga holds this same type of space as art  - a safe space in which to dive deep inside and explore the things that scare us, and the tenderness and fragility that fear and trauma can cause, inviting us to re-sensitize. This is the potency of yoga; because in doing so, we can learn to heal when we face this pain, and to embrace the vulnerability that it is to be human. Instead of shutting down and numbing out to the pain we experience, either indirectly or directly, both art and yoga offer us a tool to be with it, and to remember our vulnerability long after things have been 'fixed'.

Check out the whole interview:  Searching for Meaning amid Tragedy