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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dear Friends: One Guy's Offering of Perspective

[This piece was written during the week after it was announced that no trial would occur regarding the questionable use of police force in Ferguson, MO that resulted in the death of a teen. I've added and subtracted, read and re-read. I thank my friends who have been waiting patiently for me to finally finish it and post it.]

Well, Monday happened. Not that the result was a surprise, but it was definitely a disappointment.

In the first waves of disgust, betrayal, worry, anger, and fear I took to Facebook and essentially invited all of my friends who are not brown-skinned to contact me if they did not understand something or sought to understand something better. I received some responses and I learned that although I wanted to respond to all of them individually, it was a bit too big.

So I'm typing this as a start, and aim to specifically address people individually if this isn't sufficient.

I just don't know where to start.

Actually, that is the start of it. Dear friends, when something like this happens — again — it's difficult to know where to start with feelings and words. Things swirl around and your brain and soul are now the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes. You learn again how much some people don't get it. And they don't get it because they never had to. And they can live their lives forward never having to get it. These are not bad people, but they are clueless and they don't like to hear how they don't get it or how they should get it. They cannot handle even the slightest bit of cognitive dissonance that happens when an otherwise good person harbors such ideas and actions that do not paint them in that light. It drives them crazy and they lash out. Now you no longer have to stand up only against forces of a system that has not changed as much as people think, but against people who have lived a life never having to examine how they contribute to it through words and actions. And those people can sometimes be resistant to that change in our national culture. It's like people and agents in The Matrix. It's a regular part of being black in America. And it sucks.

Events like this and the discussions that surround it become reminders of things your grandparents fought against, that your parents fought against, that you still fight against in spite of what people did before you. You get accused of being entitled when someone who has not been and never will be black does not understand that every day of your life — especially as a youth — you are more likely to have been reminded by your elders in one way or another that you owe everything to the people who fought the struggle before you. I am well accustomed to examining my privilege. Spending much of my life doing so means that I don't take it as a guilt trip when someone says to examine privilege. I am proud that I am the product of people's dreams and work. I am thankful that they sacrificed for me. And I am disgusted that people still spout the tired "self-made man" and "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" lines. You didn't get anywhere you are today without the combined acts of people before and around you, whether they are related to you or not. My raising and my privilege tells me that I have a social responsibility on large and small scales. That means knowing where I have privilege, doing my best not to use it to step on others, recognizing when I do and listening to those who call me out on it, and also to urge others to be aware of theirs. I try not to wield it as a tool of guilt, but explanation and understanding. I'm sure sometimes I fall short of that.

You are reminded that people don't understand why "The Talk" isn't as simple as "Don't break the law." They think that's it, because that's all it ever has to be or ever has been in their experience. They have never experienced being stopped or just followed for looking like you're not supposed to be there. Clothes can be changed. Piercings can be removed. Hair can be covered. Even gay can be modified to pass. But Black cannot. "The Talk" is a painful necessary reminder that you have to not only be lawful, but you still have to go out of your way to make someone else comfortable with you. You have to be the one to do the work because chances are they may not live a life experience where it even occurs to them that they should also do that work. You need to be polite even when they are not. Do not talk back. Do not assert your rights. You must take the indignity and grit your teeth and bite your tongue because the officer you are talking to may not be one of the good ones who protect and serve, but who bullies and compensates instead. One bit of sass could get you detained, cuffed, or beaten. It is difficult to take the "common right" of civil defiance for granted when standing up for yourself can get you inconvenienced at best or beaten/dead at worst.

"The Talk" isn't about "Don't break the law."; that's another talk and of course black kids get it the same as white kids. To think they don't is when someone's thinking makes them part of the problem. "The Talk" is about "I know it hurts. I know you will have done nothing wrong. But do everything you can to make sure you get home safe."

You have to deal with and counter assumptions and proclamations that because you are from a Midwestern suburb and went to college that you are removed from or immune to the indignities of systemic racism. People who make such statements again have no idea of how frequently young black children are usually reminded that no matter how well they talk, no matter how well they dress, no matter how well they act, they must still be prepared to be treated as a suspect. The reminders are preparation for the life experiences that sooner or later will follow. As soon as someone decides that you're lingering around an item in a store too long, or you're in an area that you look like might not belong they can call the authorities. And then you're back to situations addressed in "The Talk". Socioeconomic and educational privilege are not armor. At best, they are insulation, but never armor.

Even my privileged life is a life of spending many times keeping quiet and biting my tongue. It is a life of having to figure out how to make new people comfortable with me — if you even have to — because as odd as it seems to me, this goofy six-footer still threatens people. And sometimes when I even open my mouth or get to writing and use words that show people how I'm not a threat, even when I show them that I usually — not always — take things from a place of philosophy and examination, I am still a threat. Be smart, but not too smart. Be smart enough that you're seen as equal, but not so smart that you can mop the floor with someone. Speak up about things, but only when you're asked. If you're too smart, you're compensating for an ego. You're not really that smart — it's just an act. It's difficult not to see that as a holdover from "Don't be smarter than the white folks, and if you are, you gotta play dumb and hide it. Otherwise, there's gonna be trouble."

And that touches on yet another mental gymnastic: wondering if  (or how much of) what you just experienced is because you're black or just because the person had a bad day or is simply an ass. Because you don't know. And you don't know not because you're paranoid, but because of accrued life experiences that tell you that it was in fact because you were black. You don't know because the existing racism is still ingrained enough in society — through media, through how people are raised, through various systems — that it is sneaky and can be near-invisible if you're not looking.

It's a life of keeping things down, finding out who you can talk to and who you can't. If they don't look like you, will they listen? Will they want to know or will they dismiss your concerns and experience? Will they gas light you and tell you you're just blaming someone else for your problems? All of this is just for any law-abiding citizen. I didn’t have a rebellious streak. I was not a kid who got into trouble or was ever up to no-good. I can’t imagine how much worse it would be for someone who was a rebellious teen or who liked to get into even harmless trouble every now and then. I cannot imagine what it would be like for someone who has been incarcerated and is invested in using their past as a lesson rather than a pattern. All of this is me talking strictly as a black guy from the suburbs. No priors. No red flags. Nice dress, nice manners, nice speech — still a part-time suspect for life at a moment’s notice.

People who won’t talk about about it or who don’t get it tend to think you’re blaming everyone else for your problems. Or that you want to get by on the fruit of the work of others without working. You will get blamed for building it all up in your mind and being addicted to living a victim mentality. They might think you walk through every day whining and blaming and not taking responsibility for your own actions. It gets tiring.

Some people react to a dialogue about race as if everything unsavory that happens in the life of black person gets blamed on racism. More often than not, this is not the case. However, being on the receiving side, it’s easier to see some of the more subtle things — the moving parts in society that contribute to or come from the idea that white is “normal” and “dominant”. These things may seem innocuous to someone who fits into this “norm”. They see it every day and they don’t think anything of it. To someone who is not of the “norm” it adds up — for example — to not seeing people “like you” very often. To the norm, of course, that wouldn’t matter, because you never really had to think about it — or rather, your life and society are structured so that you don’t really have to if you don’t want to. You never have to think too much about if what you said would be offensive to someone else because you’re surrounded by a bunch of people who look just like you almost all of the time. Not everything that happens gets blamed on racism — in my mind, anyway, and in the minds of family and friends. Many crappy experiences are just that, and I am/we are fortunate to live in a way in which that is the case. However, there are some things that I encounter where various elements lead to the question, “Is this because I’m black?” Even the much-reviled affirmative action brings this into question: “Do they really think I’m qualified, or am I fitting a quota?” I have to work harder to prove to potential detractors that I AM worthy. The presumption — either direct or implied — that affirmative action takes jobs from more qualified white workers and gives them to lesser qualified workers of color is a whole other can of worms and another fight/discussion/accusation to stay prepared for.

When you're black you are more likely to get painted as a thug, but when you're white you're a troubled teen acting out. When you're black you're painted as defiant and unreasonable; when you're white you're assertive. I am tall and goofy. I speak well and move well. I like to make people laugh and think and understand; I like to do those things, too. But every day of my life is balancing this with the fact that to other people, I am still potentially a threat, a suspect, a presence to be feared or to be seen as an affront to someone else's life. And I don't know where it will come from. Please don't take this as The Definitive Black Experience; it is only mine. But definitely please understand that my experience and others like it are commonplace.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

WAMA: Looting

A few of my friends have invariably asked about the validity of looting, wondering why and wondering how it achieves anything. In any discussion where I bring up understanding, someone invarabaly confuses understanding and compassion with condoning and being okay with it. It is important to understand that these are not the same thing.

While it's frustrating to have to blacksplain everything over and over, I stumbled upon this way of describing it to a friend that seems to have worked the best:

"[The point about looting is] not invalid, [name], but it's also an extremely common and expected discussion that all-too-often derails discussion about the root problem. It does not help that that the rioting discussion invariably ends up being a discussion that is used to support the negative views. Try to think of it as the equivalent of "Well, look what she was wearing!" or "Look at how she was dancing!" to derail rape discussions. Except, you know — the destructive results from rioting are an actual valid consideration. It's another in the chain of "This is why you people can't have nice things!" and a lifetime of that crap breeds illogical reactions like rioting.

For me, it just breeds rage and writing a lot of words. Sometimes a lot of big words."

This is in no way meant to equate rape and looting, but rather using an imperfect example to illustrate how discussion is commonly, expectedly derailed from root problems. I've been struggling to find better examples than rape or abuse.

Confessions of a Klingon Curmudgeon: Middlin'

We are in the thick of it. I am in the thick of it.

During this process I have closed one show. Since my last post, I have rehearsed and performed in another show, conducted an apartment search, moved most of my stuff into said apartment, have been looking for work to apply for, applying for said work, auditioning, doing a one-day shoot, and working a couple of small, short-term jobs.

I'm having a difficult time figuring out if Life is getting in the way of my passion or if it's simply the struggle of the juggle. After all, I did just spend the last two years of my life living where I work, doing something I love doing with a person I enjoyed doing it with.

This process of reacclimating to so-called real life has been throwing me curves aplenty.

The lines started to freak me out a bit. One of the original creators of A Klingon Christmas Carol is still involved with its production in New York and he made the effort of sending out an APB to former and current SQuja's to form a support network. The most important piece of advice: "You will hit that point of saturation and panic." The second most important piece: "We'll give you support when you need it."

The first wall was being off-book for Act I. I was panicking and had no idea how it was going to happen. The load of nannying I have been doing for temporary work means that I have not been able to dedicate as many daytime hours to working lines. But it happened. I plowed to make it happen, things happened that gave us an extra day. And I passed!

But then this week we were supposed to be off-book for Act 2. Lots of lines. A lot more lines. I was not off book. Cue next wall, enter stage everywhere. [note: one week later, at the time of this editing and posting I am still not off-book, but I have one more scene to go. I'm not perfect on the other scenes yet, but I'm off book. That's something.]

I've been growing out a VanDyke for the show and I've made it through the first wall with that. It didn't start to look decent until after week four and I'm going on week six right now. I was worried that it wouldn't come in very well at all. Instead, I have learned that it's growing beautifully and evenly and I even have these cool individual grey hairs growing along the chin; the last time I grew out any part of my facial hair, I didn't have that. Going grey is an adventure to me.

It still looks a little funny. Not only because I usually shave, but because it's not as neatly sculpted on the sides. I wanted to make sure that I have enough to play with for Klingon Christmas Carol, but it also turned out that after years of applying and modifying clown makeup, I happened to subconsciously determine the borders of my face bush using principles of lines of facial movement.

Look for humor hard enough and you will find it.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Confessions of a Klingon Curmudgeon: Toddling Along

I'm nearing the one-month mark for the Klingon Christmas Carol rehearsals and I'm neck deep in the mixture of excitement and concern that I won't have enough time. I'm already two pages off book. Or is it "only two pages . . . "? I have no way to gauge, so I'm simultaneously feeling good and feeling jittery. I've begun spending more stolen moments learning lines and running them under my breath at many given moments throughout the day. My housemates (the short way of saying "married home-owning benefactor friends who have let me stay in their spare room for low, low rent since I've returned from Japan in June") have even become subject to the results of this casting. Sure, they're both familiar with the theater and rehearsal, with running lines and such, but sometimes the wife quips about how the guttural sounds of Klingonese make her think some demon is huddling in a corner of her house. #NotAllKlingons

I can understand her interpretation. The Klingon language is a harsh-sounding language in which one must mind glottal stops, enunciate the tlh, and distinguish the Hs and ghs. The q and Q distinction is not as challenging, but a cold or a sore throat can turn simple attempts at speech into a battle of wills against the small muscles in the back of the throat. Three days of rehearsal and a rescheduled voice lesson turned into a uvular crossfit session after which not-talking felt more delightful than usual. It still remains a bit of a challenge not to make everything sound angry, even if I am Scrooge. That tone and sense is coming more easily through dissection of the words, where the root noun or verb can be smothered under a dogpile of suffixes (suffices?) and object-subject reflexive prefixes. These are things you grow accustomed to ignoring in everyday use of your mother tongue.

Linguistic challenges notwithstanding, this undertaking is packed with moments of pride. For the first time ever, I — a regular shaver and baby-faced, angular-cheeked daywalker — will be growing out facial hair for a role. Even as I've aged, I have never truly shown a natural talent for growing facial hair. Shaving was as much of a preference as it was a professional convention, but every so often, I become curious about how well I could grow it out if I tried again. My hope is that by the time the show opens, I will have sufficient facial hair to live up to the Klingon norm of adult males having facial hair. That way, I won't have to deal with spirit gum and I can also have another small victory to boost my ego: "I grew out facial hair for a role! I have now done the physical transformation thing!"

I've even taken to the pedantry of referring to my growth as a Van Dyke instead of a goatee. What's the difference? Glad you asked! A goatee is just on the chin. A Van Dyke is the one that's commonly called a goatee, but it's a goatee with a corresponding mustache element, as explained here. My girlfriend isn't too crazy about it and I'm having a heck of a time dealing with the itchiness. I just have to keep reminding the both of us that it's for a good (read "marvelously geeky") reason and it'll be gone before Christmas. I even offered to begin a "BeardBeGone" countdown just for her. It's tough enough with the distance, I don't need facial hair to come between us. We shall overcome. *sniffle* In the meantime, I've gotten to surprise people with the new look and it's a lot less jarring for them (and for me) than if I showed up without my dreads. I'm not ready to part with those yet.

The theater space is coming together and all the cast is working hard. Fight choreography has been set and we have regular language sessions. Blocking and scene work have begun and we're actually making this thing happen. I wish I could go back in time and tell younger me that this is happening, but I'll just have to experience for him.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Confessions of a Klingon Curmudgeon: It Begins

". . . We would like to offer you the part of SQuja'."

The breath left my body as I was sitting in my parked car, a bit late for a meeting. My heart raced. Tears welled up in my eyes. I was sitting in my car, Lando, laughing and almost on the verge of tears because I landed the lead in _A Klingon Christmas Carol._

I was elated that the show was returning to the Twin Cities for the first time in four years. I wanted to be in the show since I first saw it and was simply appreciative that I could audition for it. I didn't care which role I got — I just wanted to be in it. I never dreamt that I would be cast as Scrooge in one of the most marvelously up-my-alley shows that exists. This feels much bigger to me than the Guthrie Theater's annual production.

After a couple of weeks of keeping it quiet I was finally able to tell everyone. Actually, before that I did tell my girlfriend, my family, my best friends, and a friend in Chicago who was engaged in a now-successful Klingon pop songs Kickstarter (a podcast interview is here)— but social media was out of the equation. The best part about it for me is that I have something I can invite friends to come see and it's in the same city or at least the same country.

I've been in rehearsals for about three weeks now, but I only just now thought to chronicle this experience. I was aching to return to writing and eventually get paid for it again and this seemed as good a time as any. I'm receiving scads of support and nerdy elation novas (or "novae", I suppose) from friends and family and it's a large part of my happiness right now as I'm working on settling back in the Twin Cities.

I suppose you could say this is my version of The Voyage Home.

Friday, October 3, 2014

It's Focus, Not Faking

It seems that where Facebook statuses are concerned, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. It can be frustrating to see someone consistently post update after update full of self-pity, depressing vaguebooking, and attention fishing. Likewise, it can be eye-rollingly vomit-inducing seeing someone post update after update of effusive, flowery, gushing, feel-good clickbaity vaguebooking, and attention fishing. Either extreme can be annoying and there is often loudly-voiced backlash against them both. But neither case is always about manipulation or putting on a show. Some people truly are comfortable using Facebook as a means to be okay with vulnerability (or joy) and you may be seeing such posts as part of a specific group of trusted people.

Sure, some people may have self-serving motives. In my MySpace and earlier Facebook days I trafficked more heavily in seeking approval or validation and loathe that I did. I have this thing where I often feel that I'm less amazing than how people see me. Fortunately, I have special people in my life who take me to task whenever I feel that way. Although I am occasionally downish in my status updates, I have been making an effort to be more positive. It's not an attempt to be Mr. Sunshine or to make people believe my life is more awesome than it is. It's a conscious change in focus. Instead of acknowledging what is flourishing or growing, I usually focus on what isn't. Instead of relishing what I have chosen, I grit my teeth about what I am passing up because I cannot be everything and I cannot do everything and how could I possibly be as amazing as some people tell me I am if I am not Doing All Things and Doing Them Well. I am working to change that practice — and it is exactly that: a practice. We practice so we can improve.

I don't know if I need therapy — sometimes I think I do, sometimes I think I don't. However, I write those more positive status updates out of a concerted effort to choose my perspective. I really can do better with how I focus on things and events in my life. I can make more effective choices about what I express and maybe my practice can have a good effect on others. It's pretty easy to be cynical about things and I try to fight cynicism when I can. I seldom enjoy experiences with cynics and I don't want to be that cynical guy. I'm the only one who can change that.

Monday, September 29, 2014

WAMA: Gender Vittles

These "Who Asked Me, Anyway" posts of mine admittedly seem a bit masturbatory: little pats on the back to get validation that I'm a good person and thinking The Right Way about any number of things. For me, they're more of a way to analyze and re-analyze my thoughts and opinions, and maybe ways to spark conversation among or between friends. They may agree, they may not. A friend of mine recently piped up about spanking and even people who didn't entirely agree were cordial.

Or if they wouldn't have been, they kept their mouths shut.

Of course, it wouldn't have been too long before I churned out another example ripe for the WAMA format. An associate of mine posted an article on a blog called "Comments From Men Over 40 to Run Away From." on her Facebook wall. I'll wait until you read it. It's okay. This'll still be here.

Back? All right. Let's dance.

I thought it was funny and made sense. I know as a guy that women have to be on the lookout for creeps and people who would hurt them. I tend to find a kinship between that and the fact that as a black guy, one of my survival mechanisms is to be aware that I likely have to make some people feel at ease with my presence in one way or another each day, or prove that I do indeed intend to pay for that, or that I have no interest in manhandling me that fiiiiiiine white woman. One male friend of hers took some umbrage at the post, frustrated at the idea that a guy might not be able to say these things without a woman thinking he's a creep. He was angry. He thought it was unfair. He thought that it was outrageous that he had to watch what he said on the off chance that he might be prejudged in a negative way. I thought that his reaction was typical of something you see a lot of nowadays in some people during anything that could become (or has already become) a discussion about privilege.

My first statement:

"I can totally understand your reaction, [female friend]. And seeing as how I am someone who is also not entirely of the "cultural default" of the USA, it doesn't seem such an outrage-inducing concept to consider how I might be viewed by others before or after I open my mouth, let alone when I enter a room. I'm laughing and cringing with you.

[Male friend of female friend], I think it's something that more men would do well to practice awareness of: be aware of how what we say can be perceived. Make no assumptions that someone will understand that we're just being nice and even then, we aren't owed the time of day just because we're genuinely being nice. It's sometimes difficult not to take offense, but it's not always how we're being, but rather how we're being received. Women deal with daily crap guys don't."

He then responded:
"We all deal with daily crap. All I'm trying to say is, to the same extent that women do not want to be prejudged as sex objects, men do not want to be prejudged as perverts."

My second response:

"I'm not saying no one deals with daily crap, but we as men have a large amount of social privilege. We have the luxury of not having to worry about being seen as perverts if one chooses to be so oblivious. And as we all know, so many do. Women, on the other hand, have more of a concern of "Is this guy a pervert?" and can get hurt or worse if they make a bad judgement call. On the scale of daily crap, I'd say that one holds a lot more weight. That puts more impetus on guys to exercise awareness, rather than on women, who are scared more for their safety than a guy being scared that someone doesn't get him or gets the wrong idea about him.

On an equal, general human level yes, prejudging is not fair to anyone, and all would do well to be aware of that and act accordingly. But when you add the nuances of being a possessor of privilege, it's far too easy to sound like something on par with "NOT ALL MEN!" or White Whine if your main point is, "Well it can suck to be me/us, too!" Your point is valid, but I think — at the risk of further removing any comedic intent from the original post — it comes across as a standard derailing tactic in discussing issues. To my eyes, the underlying non-humorous issue behind this post is "Why do women feel uncomfortable and how can men take the initiative to make daily life feel as safe to them as it can to men?" instead of "But what about how women treat men back?" Again, a valid discussion and one that is definitely connected along the line, but not the one at the forefront as the subject of the humor post."

I don't know exactly when it happened, but my youthful desire to know it all and let you know that I do evolved into a desire to be understood, to understand, and try to help people understand. I'm always developing a way to express things to people without being condescending and to let them know that it's their way of thinking I'm addressing and not their value as a person. It's not always easy and sometimes I lose my own footing in the effort. Maybe it's just another way of playing "know-it-all". There are a couple of cynical, crotchety, angry/scared middle aged white guys out there who think I'm an idiot. (I'm also learning to be okay with the idea that there are people out there who I've talked to who think I'm an idiot.) There's a lot of opportunity these days to work on understanding, but sometimes I think I would do well to work on disengaging. I think I'm learning that some people just don't get it.

Or they will, and just need more time. Their view of the world and themselves is being shaken up. I may be helping, I may not be. But I suppose I could at least take the chance to help. I may not have to be the answer, but I guess I can still make an effort.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Busting Old Ghosts That Haunt Me

This weekend I received a reminder that failure is only temporary if you let it be. Instead, it can be only a pause, maybe a setback, or a building block for a success. I focus on results and often get lost in the shame and disappointment I equate with failure.

I'm currently in rehearsals for a show/experience that will run in October. We're starting our second week of rehearsals, so we're in the exploratory and workshop stages for the moment. In rehearsal Saturday, I made a specific choice of character with the aim of challenging myself in one of the exercises/experiments. I made other choices regarding that character that went opposite of what I felt would have been the obvious or easy choice. I started to feel like I made a bad choice and performed horribly even though I stuck to my choice in an attempt to hash it out. I felt the exact opposite of success and felt myself begin to slide down into the trap of comparing myself to others.

Everyone else around me seemed to be doing better. They made better choices. Why the hell did I avoid the obvious choice? They were in the world and I was floundering — committed to my choice and trying to make it work, but I was floundering. In my character interactions, I was making it easy for everyone else. What even makes me think that I'm actually an actor? 

The change happened on Sunday while sweating in the Merchandise Mart at the Minnesota State Fair. I realized that adding one element could make my choice 100% valid without negating my other choices, if given another opportunity to run with it. That one element would have tied in with another choice I made in an earlier experiment with a different character. It makes more sense now and feels less like a complete failure, but a gut/subconscious step toward a bigger success, hinging on character and subtlety more than the obvious and subsequently easy.

Or rather, what I thought would be easy for me.

Despite being a clown and improviser, I often have difficulty trusting my gut. My brain — goofy as it may be — craves logic and reason in choices and situations, even in making a choice not based in reason at all. My heart cries out for certainties and is frequently left to cry it out in a corner instead.

From this vantage point, I can't tell for sure if it was my gut or my brain that led me, but at some point, they started working together without my knowing it. Now I'm starting to see how the choice that first felt right, then horribly wrong and reputation-ruining in the midst of my peers and cast mates, actually weaves together with what can make a more interesting choice. That choice might not seem to fit at first, but can start out as an itch in the back of the brain, then as a feeling, then finally as a reveal that can tie in with the context of everything else in one, important detail saved for the perfect time. Ultimately, it's the director's job to determine that and to decide if it's worthwhile to pursue, but at least I have something to bring to the table other than self-flagellation and social/performance anxiety.

Not all of the webs a spider weaves have to be tangible.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Incredible, But NOT Impossible

Despite my aversion to internet hyperbole, I watched this particular posting of the runner-up dance troupe at the Vibe XIX 2014 competition. I'd seen friend after friend post it and caved. After all, it was dance, which is something I enjoy watching, thanks to my parents' influence. Different sites had different hyperbolic statements, usually alluding to superhuman or impossible. The routine is tight. The dancers are strong and the synchronization is top-notch. The secret?

They are neither superhuman nor impossible. The only secret is that they are human and many things are indeed possible.

This is what happens when you have a group of people passionate about one thing. It would not work if each of the people did not have this thing in common that they prized greatly. This is the result of artists working in concert with each other. This is rehearsal. This is practice. This is trial-and-error. This is putting down the video game or hurrying home from school or the McJob because you don't want to be late for practice. This is picking yourself up over and over again. This is result of countless meals of nothing but love-work-and-sacrifice sandwiches. This is doing it "just one more time" when someone in charge tells you, "No. That's not it. Do it again."

This is what happens when a group of somebodies chooses a passion over a soul-crushing rat race. The reaction of the people who watch is part of the payment: the feeling that onlookers are left carrying with them that may hopefully inspire them to pursue a passion instead of caving to fear or an idea of propriety. This is only one reward of The Arts.

There may be no money. There may be no fame. But recognition for the results of the work and the impact on the public is the biggest payoff. I should not blame people for their inability to convey the impact this had on their blown minds, but rather laud/applaud the work and hope that it shakes some people up to pursue a passion and thereby make the world all the richer for it.