This morning, on NPR's This I Believe series, Quique Aviles talked about his crack addiction and how he dealt with it by performing. By surrounding himself with text, with acting, with communication. He wanted to lay himself open. You can read and listen to the piece here.
But the key to the whole thing came in the epilogue. NPR's announcer said:
since performing his new work .. he has the feeling he's being watched to see what choices he will make ... and in a way, he likes that.
And in his piece, Quique says:
In a world of zero tolerance, talking like this about my addiction --
even saying it out loud on the radio -- may mean artistic suicide. But
by telling my story here and on stage, I will take my voice back.
People will bear witness to my life. I believe that crack can kill me,
but that in the end, that communication and direct human contact will
The message here is that community is key to healthy living. A community is where we store our social norms.
In the US, we have many communities, but one overriding ethic: You can be anything you want. The essence of freedom, but also the essence of permissiveness. In many instances, this essence of freedom often feels like, or even takes the form of, societal indifference. Many, when confronted by that indifference feel at best ambivalent about their own future and at worst totally abandoned.
What Quique has done here, it seems to me, is create his own community. He has created a set of societal eyes that have become interested in his future. This makes him more likely to be interested in his future himself.
There has been a lot of fear over the Internet being a place where "deviants" can find a place to spread their social ills. But this assumes that people's entire reason for searching for a community is to reward existing behavior, even if that's damaging behavior. But the Internet's inherent anonymity may work in the exact opposite way.
The Catholic confessional is a largely misunderstood phenomenon in this respect. The goal of the confessional is not to allow you to do really bad things, go talk about it in a box, and then have your sins absolved. It's about to get you to give voice to things that are honestly bothering you and to talk to them with someone you inherently trust in a non-threatening (somewhat anonymous) way. And that helps you work through them.
The theory being that after you've done that, maybe you'll be better set to act on a resolution when you leave. (And, mind you, this was come up with in a very tight community with a LOT of social norms to conform to).
Aviles' public performance may be seen as a 21st Century Confessional. An attempt to grasp for, self-define, and create a community that will give him the strength he needs to work through his addiction.
(Aviles' group is Sol & Soul)
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