When I was at Syracuse University we had a week of nuclear awareness events. There were lectures, there were discussions and films. I remember one night I watched ‘The War Game,’ a British drama-documentary filmed in 1965 dramatizing the effect of a nuclear explosion in Britain and the resulting end of their society structure. The film was so powerfully done that it was hard to believe it wasn’t a documentary. That these things didn’t actually happen.
When I walked out of that building I literally thought the sky would light up at any moment. And, at 19, I wondered what I was doing at Syracuse University studying something so inane as acting.
When I called my mother in desperate tears and fear she said something that has stayed with me all my life. She recounted for me the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. And the belief they truly had that, at any moment, the world they knew would end. She told me that what was most important at that time was for them to escape that world of fear, to be entertained, to be reminded of the value of life through film, theatre and art.
I am thinking about that now. I have thought about it many times throughout the last three decades, and it comes again to me since the attacks on Brussels and the ongoing attack on Syria and so many other places or moments where humanity is not to be found and violence announces itself as king.
I am not 19 anymore. And the world has utterly changed in these 30 years. In such a way that I am sure it will never return. No matter how many walls we build, or fences we construct. We are now at a time where we can no longer believe in the safety of an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’ We will only find our true comfort and our deliverance to a humane and peaceful planet through courageously exploring the challenging journey of embracing WE.
And this, I know, is where the artists come in. No longer to offer escape, but to offer a healthy pathway to community. No longer to only entertain but to encourage the spark of creative connectivity found in every human being on this planet. This is an imperative. Just as I am sure more attacks will come.
Clearly the way we have been heading has not established a way of living together that assures peace. Our leaders – our governments – will do what they will do. But while their actions either are improving our hopes for survival or diminishing them, it is time for the artist to take up the call and expand their personal mission to be responsible to all humanity.
It is a brave act to look deeply at one another. To embrace each other through the fear of our differences, our histories, and to arrive at the moment where we see our mutual beauty. That is a power that an artist can direct, shape and guide.
It is a call to arms for the sake of humanity and the planet on which we depend.