Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What I Wore for a Thought-Provoking Date Night


 Last Friday, we walked a couple of kilometres to the cinema for a showing of Ai WeiWei's magnificent documentary, Human Flow. Have any of you watched it yet? Devastating and beautiful and humbling and inspiring and despair-inducing all at once. So very human. I highly recommend it, but with the proviso that you make room -- emotional energy and ample time -- for the processing of what this massive global human migration, this ongoing displacement, means for all of us.

Sobering as I knew it would surely be, I proposed the movie as part of a date night, and although we'd be walking several kilometres, in the rain, through some rather edgy urban terrain, I thought I'd try to dress up a bit. Just because this guy's been around for over 43 years doesn't mean I should take him for granted, right?

 I never thought to snap a photo until I'd put my coat on and we were heading toward the door, so you can't see that I'm wearing a leopard-print cashmere V-neck with the very wide-legged, high-waisted black velvet pants I bought at the shop "& Other Stories" in Bordeaux last year. Turns out I haven't as many obvious occasions to wear them as I'd hoped, so I've decided I'd better make those occasions -- or rather make more occasions out of the everyday. . . Something like Alyson Walsh's Casual Glamour. Edited to Add: Alyson's post on That's Not My Age today is about the Casual Glamour of  wearing Velvet in the daytime. Talk about Synchronicity!
 To that end, I dressed down the drama of the pants' black velvet and swishy width by wearing them with my faithful, well-worn black leather moto jacket (Mackage, 7 years old, can't believe I ever gave a second thought to wearing one at my advanced age).

I don't think you can tell much about the shoes, in these photos, but readers, I even wore heels! Okay, they're 1.5 blocky heels on a rather sensible-but-funky pair of Think! shoes, but still. Heels!! I think that's the first time in months. . .

And finally, a cashmere scarf against the elements, some wild and greying curls for the rain and wind to mess around in, and we headed out into the night.

Still thinking about the film, days later; its powerful images will be with us for some time. We talked about it a bit over dinner at a spot we've been meaning to try, La Bodega on Main, a new version of the now-departed, long-loved Bodega on Howe. Snuggled into a corner noshing on delicious, savoury small plates, a contented Friday-night crowd buzzing all around us, good smells, much comfort, you can bet we felt our privilege, our good fortune in life.

Yes, the film did nudge us toward some research and some cheque-writing. Some of the despair will not be budged so easily, but we must carry on with lives where we are, doing the best we can, right? At the very least, for me, it feels important to witness, not to turn away from the suffering of others, and yet, I want/need to continue finding and making joy where I can in my daily life, nurturing relationships close at hand. Hence this post's odd mix of What I Wore for a Friday Night date and attention to a documentary about the plight of millions.

I won't pose questions today, but will let you respond to whatever might strike you. I do wonder if you've seen the film or if it's in your plans. And should you care to tell me how you reconcile your awareness of the big picture with the need to care for the small, or your awareness of the contrast between your good fortune in life and the desperate circumstances of so many, I'm listening . . . But if you just want to tell me what you wore on your last casual dinner-and-a-movie date with your partner or for a girls-night-out with your besties, that's good too! (Ha, I see that I've come very close to posing questions after all. Bossy'r'us! ;-) Sorry . . . )

I've come back to worry about appearing too glib about the human misery WeiWei's film considers, the wars and environmental changes that are causing these massive displacements. I do hope you recognize that what you see here -- the reconciliation I've arrived at -- might have taken a route much more troubled than fits the context of the blog.  . . . 


21 comments:

  1. I haven't seen the film (it doesn't play here-yet),but after his grand exibition a year or two ago,accompanied with documentaries,so remarkable,strong (could I use word strong for the impact?),incriminativ and revealing,thought provocative-I could imagine.....
    About your second question: one have to help,to do good wherever and whenever one could,to be sensitive for the pain and suffering of the others(and "others"),but it doesn't mean that one couldn't enjoy the life and love and sparkling joy . One never knows what future may bring and it is certainly allowed to enjoy moments of happiness!
    Dottoressa

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    1. I'm so impressed at how much aesthetic pleasure Weiwei is able to offer while raising our collective consciousness about social and political and environmental issues -- this film is a rich example of that.
      I like the way you respond to that second question -- it's about balance, always, isn't it? and filling our own reservoirs enables at to help others, perhaps?

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  2. This brings to mind the book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. I read this so long ago that I don't remember much but I do recall the idea of doing what's possible in the rings closest to you if you imagine a set of concentric circles. I suppose that is all we can do and hope that the good radiates out and eventually we can have an effect on those wider concentric circles. Otherwise, it does seem hopeless sometimes when we consider all the human suffering.

    You look very hip in this outfit - I love all the elements. That jacket is fabulous!

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    1. I like that image, slf, of the small positive actions we manage having a ripple effect outward (we had a copy of that book again -- did everyone, in the 90s?)
      Thanks re the outfit. The jacket looks its age, but then, so do I look mine!

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  3. I have to be very careful not to bathe in the news everyday or the amount of human suffering and hatred in our midst would swamp me, rendering me ineffective in doing the little, tiny bits of good I try to do frequently. I need strength to do that and the strength comes, for me, from being informed, but not dwelling.
    Despite extreme trauma twice in my life, I do feel very, very, privileged in my life circumstances. I was raised to participate in many ways as a volunteer and to share what good fortune I have. I can do that, in small frequent doses ,so easily-in ways that hopefully benefit others, but also, luckily,enrich me,too.
    Living in a city ,as I do now, I am aware of the low hum of hate and the lack of safety in certain areas of our daily lives.
    I, and we, write checks monthly for small donations to charities and because I feel very strongly about homelessness anywhere, but particularly in London, my sweetheart joins me in helping to clothe a Big Issue seller who is trying so hard to help himself.

    Evidence of that hatred causes me to force myself to remember the untold kindness of so many Londoners these past months when terrorism struck and nudges me to redouble my efforts in small ways to volunteer more, or by simply being kind, sharing a laugh and pointing out the good when I see it.
    Had the most startling, but lovely, response the other day when I told the woman standing next to me
    in line how fab she looked in her long suede trench coat and olive green scarf. Really,she looked so effortlessly sensational on a very grey day...she said thank you so much and burst into tears. Yikes. Not what I meant to cause, but she told me it had been years since anyone had noticed anything about her and she was grateful I had. THEN, I started to cry. God, I am a sap.
    A.in London

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    1. Sounds as if you've drawn on your own experience with difficulties, with trauma, to establish a balance between self-care and reaching out to help others. What a lovely example that is, just the simple act of commenting on someone's appearance -- Who knows how powerfully that might ripple in her life. . .

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  4. Does it help for me to immerse myself in guilt for my good fortune at being born in the developed world as it is called? If I feel bad, shocked, dismayed, disgusted, appalled does it serve any purpose besides my loss of sleep and gloomy feelings?
    Personally, I avoid films and books of this nature. I can't save the world. I don't agree with many of the things that are done or the way governments do things but I can't change that. I've heard it called misery porn. I do contribute to organizations/charities but there's a lot of misuse of funds in developing countries and exorbitant salaries and extravagant office space for major international charities. I guess I've become a little cynical over the years.

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    1. Yes, misuse of funds is real. We try to research how our dollar is spent. Does it go to administrative costs or actually makes it to real aid? It's shocking to view large, well known international organizations and see how little actually goes to real aid. We are thankful for reviews of aid organizations where you can see how your dollar is spent.
      Charlene H

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    2. We each have to find our own comfort level, recognize our own need for insulation from what disturbs us. Personally, as difficult as I find it to see the misery and devastation that exist out there, I'm committed to being reasonably knowledgeable about world events. I think you're right that immersion in guilt doesn't help anyone and "misery porn" is a dangerous indulgence. Funds are misused, as you say. However, with research one can find organizations worth contributing to, as you have, as you do. And as other commenters have noted, we might not be able to save the world, but we can make small efforts, take small actions (and I have to believe that we can change some of what governments do, even if that's naively optimistic) -- and hope for those positive acts to ripple outward to the next concentric circle.

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    3. We've been so lucky, Charlene, in having two organizations started by friends -- one is the Village Medical Project in Sierra Leone, and the other is KIDS International Development Society. They're both quite targeted in their scope, and very transparent about funding, and because we've watched them grow, know the principal people involved well, we know our donations are going directly where we want them to.

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    4. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing, Frances.
      We, too, know a family that began Children's Hunger Fund, a highly-ranked charity by Forbes magazine. Because they are local, we've also been able to donate time and labor! Fun to join in with like-minded folks and get things done!
      Our American Thanksgiving is coming up next week! Going to try something new. Giving cash to our sons and their families to "do good". They choose. It can be an organization, an anonymous basket left on a doorstep, handing cash to the homeless person, etc. When we gather at Christmas, hopefully, we will be able to share stories that take us out of our comfortable middle-class existence. We are becoming too complacent in our comfort.
      One more tiny step of kindness sent out...
      Thank you for writing this thought-provoking post.
      Charlene H.
      P/S. You look great! Peter must have proudly strutted by your side!

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    5. Charlene, This is such a great idea! I love the way you frame it as something that benefits you as well as those you contribute a gift to. This kind of giving binds you together in your family and in your wider community.
      and thanks for the p.s. Kind Words! ;-)

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    6. Adding your two organizations to the above-mentioned Thanksgiving Envelope Project as suggestions for donations. :) <3

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  5. I have to agree with the last two commenters & this wouldn’t be a date night for me . There is a limit to the amount of world cruelty & unkindness I can cope with . I suppose part of the problem is that we devote ourselves to causes we care deeply for & that means the pain is deeply felt too . I’ve been a volunteer with the local RSPCA home now for twenty years & there have been many sleepless nights . You don’t become toughened to it . We have monthly regular payments arranged to our favourite charities , which we have investigated to ensure the money is used wisely . It amazes me that many people , friends of ours & financially comfortable , don’t do this . I do keep up with what is happening in the world but we are battered with bad news , far more than our parents generation even - 24\7 as they say . That’s why the books I read are pretty lightweight too . I need to switch off for my peace of mind .
    Wendy in York

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    1. Again, I think it's very wise to know your limit, especially when you contribute so generously to a cause you are passionately committed to. And I do think we need to filter the news that reaches us, given that we can be bathed perpetually in data. As for the date night, as shocking as Weiwei's film was, it was also astoundingly beautiful, and it gave us so much to talk about afterward. And then we changed the subject and concentrated on the good food, the happy crowd around us, our good fortune. . . . We switched off, as you do, for our peace of mind.

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  6. I don't think that Human Flow has made its way here (Massachusetts) yet, but I will look for it, after reading your post. It is a struggle sometimes to define my own ever-shifting boundaries regarding how much grim news I can witness, whether first hand or through art. I know that the very fact that I have some choice in this matter is a sign of my privilege. I also know that becoming overwhelmed helps nothing and dulls my capacity for action, locally or globally. So I try my best to also note and savor the many joys in my everyday life--the roasted fall vegetables for supper, the spots of color still lingering in the woods where I walk, a terrific diner breakfast with an old friend.

    My most recent night out also featured a Moto jacket--a style I've always liked and never thought of wearing until a recent consignment store find. Mine is made of waxed cotton by Eileen Fisher. The price was right, the fit was good, and I think it suits me after all!

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    1. I find the same, that my boundaries shift continually over what and how much I can witness -- and you've captured exactly the balance I try to maintain also: remaining aware of my choice, my privilege (and if witnessing shows that my use of that privilege contributes to other's pain, I have the luxury of change); and becoming overwhelmed so that I have nothing left to contribute . Savouring the simple daily joys is so important.
      What a great Thrift find! Sue at Une Femme just included an Eileen Fisher waxed-cotton Moto jacket, if I remember correctly. Buying it at a consignment-store price is the perfect way to try out a style you were skeptical about wearing.

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  7. I think Human Flow has been showing at selected cinemas in the UK. Since I'm currently in a small village in the north of Scotland it won't be coming anywhere near here. I have very conflicted feelings about this film, while never having seen it. I feel I've seen it already, without the images having been turned into art. The scenes played relentlessly, night after night, on our news programmes in Europe. One might claim that they were manipulated then for media purposes - but then here they are again 'used' (avoiding the word manipulated) for the purpose of art. Like many of your readers above I am reaching my limit of taking on the wider troubles of the world. There are many pressing issues in our own countries that need resolved - better social housing; better education, including parent education; within our National Health Service, meeting the healthcare challenge of an ageing population; addressing food poverty. I am particularly jaundiced at the use of images of refugees/migrants into Europe because they were very definitely manipulated by the 'Leave' campaign in our EU referendum. I am convinced that what many people voted for in voting to leave the EU was not actually leaving the EU, but becoming a fortress Britain against what they saw as a 'tide' of mainly Muslim refugees/migrants. Geographically we are so close that it will feel very different to many people here than if separated by thousands of miles of ocean. At which point it ceases to become thought-provoking Art and becomes politics and real life. You could say that my plea to address problems at home rather than those of the wider world is at the feel-good liberal end of the same spectrum. I think what I'm arguing for, forlornly, is against the barrage of images of Weltschmerz. Forlorn, because we live in a visual age. I'm not saying that I withdraw from what's happening in the world. I read UK daily papers online, of opposite political views, and I read the French press for a European view. But I cannot make world trauma the visual backdrop to my life.

    On taking early retirement I culled my very long list of monthly charity donations, most of which I discovered were for women's and education causes in Africa and Asia. I now only donate to a UK cancer charity, and to a UK charity which works with the homeless and lonely. As I prepare to spend the rest of my life in a small village, I know that there will be people in need here, and it is on this small scale that I am likely to concentrate.

    Your outfit!! What I notice most are the great accents - the tan leather of the watch strap and the camel cashmere scarf. Lifting the whole ensemble.

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    1. So much here to respond to, and honestly, while I take your points, I think it's beyond my motivation to argue them here. I do understand the exhaustion, and I readily concede that geography makes a difference in our perceptions. I can't let slide a dismissal of Ai Weiwei's work as mere "manipulation" (the word "exploitation" just hovering) -- too big a fan. Should you ever see the film perhaps you'd agree that he does something different than the news media you've seen.
      Thanks re the outfit. I do love that watch and the cashmere scarf -- I think having those basic luxury (to me, at least) items that I wear almost constantly makes it easier somehow to pare down the rest of my wardrobe and outfits, if that makes sense.

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    2. Don't misunderstand me Frances - you'll see that I deliberately set aside the notion that this film was manipulative in this film, and I certainly wasn't dismissing it. What I was trying to say was that for some in Europe the images have been used so relentlessly for a variety of purposes, including the scare-mongering of the Brexit Leave campaign, that it becomes difficult to view them as Art. If I do ever see the film I'm sure that I will be moved by it, but it will perhaps be complicated by the fact that I have already seen so much exploitation/manipulation by news media and for cynical political ends.

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    3. I'm glad you came back to make that distinction really clear, Linda, and I can imagine how different your perspective might be. Weiwei does something different, I think, to interrupt the overload of data. . . .

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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