Expand The Bubble
It’s a challenge to live, consider, and appreciate life outside of our own experience and perspectives. It’s why organizations like Mental Health America of Central Carolinas tries to educate on mental illness with events like Wake Up for Wellness. It’s why Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont chooses to put graduates of their job training program on the stage to share their experience at their Cornerstone Luncheon. This type of exposure helps us to see outside our own bubbles.
Perhaps one of my most memorable pushes outside my bubble came from a woman whose bubble seemed to be large enough to encompass the planet. In 2011, I had the immense honor of being a guest in Dr. Maya Angelou’s home. My friend and client, Clarke Allen, who writes of his personal relationship with Dr. Angelou, took me along to her annual 4th of July party. That day I met the woman who was both one of my writer heroes and aspirational spirits.
As I walked into her home, mixed with stomach-flipping anticipation at meeting this iconic woman, was concern I was going to be met with looks of what’s this white girl doing here?
Somehow, I feared that guests at Dr. Angelou’s house wouldn’t share her same inclusive spirit. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that they did.
I felt more comfortable amongst that group of strangers than I have in a room full of people I know. There was a gentleness, warmth, and sense of community in that backyard. There was a feeling that radiated between people that everyone was welcomed, accepted, and honored for exactly who they were.
My fear was the constrictiveness of my bubble. And Dr. Angelou and her guests’ warmth was a demonstration of the expansiveness of theirs.
In our Last Word column, Mary Tribble talks of the notions of radicalization and polarization; fancier words to describe tight, constrictive bubbles. She writes, “I think in some ways, it's unavoidable that as the country's demographics change, we'll continue to feel more apart before we come together. I am hopeful that time, along with reasoned dialogue, will create positive change. The reasoned dialogue can sometimes be drowned out by the rhetoric of the fearful, but it's there if you listen.”
Which is my very roundabout way of bringing it back to the theme of this issue: the arts. Personally, I can think of no greater entry point to living a life outside the bubble than through the arts. Film and television has acted as a safe vehicle into lives and worlds outside of our own that might have otherwise been met with trepidation or judgment. Music and dance have offered glimpses of appreciation into other cultures and ethnicities. The written word has allowed us to identify and feel understood by authors who might not look like us. Visual art has the ability to tap into emotion that perhaps we had buried.
The arts are more than a source of entertainment. It has the potential to serve as connecting points in a community. That is why it is so important that we support and enjoy the institutions, organizations, and artists of our community. Go to a show, step inside one of our many museums, find a piece of art that you connect with at a local gallery. Let’s expand our bubbles and meet there.
Amanda Pagliarini Howard