Yesterday Julie Andrews was on the CBS Sunday Morning show. Julie’s movie Mary Poppins was one of the first I ever saw as a child and I was so looking forward to seeing The Sound of Music, Julie’s other hit movie, produced as a play at the Manitoba Theatre Centre this coming December. During her interview yesterday Julie offered two pieces of advice her mother often gave her that are very apt for our time.
“When in doubt, stand still and wait till the way forward is clear. “
“This will have a beginning, a middle and an end. So just wait it through.”
Coincidentally I got an interesting message from Hawaii this week.
My friend and former colleague Bill currently teaches English at a college in Hilo, Hawaii. He sent me a message last week that he has assigned his students to read some of my blog posts and respond to one of them. I am interested to read what the students have to say.
In a recent op-ed in the Toronto Globe and Mail Chinese dissident artist Ai Wei Wei says what our world needs right now is a sober reflection on what it means to ‘cherish life.’ How do we best honour and cherish the lives of people who will be lost to the coronavirus because the governments of the world didn’t act quickly or honestly enough?
Ai Wei Wei was banished from China for his attempts to honour and cherish lives through his art. After the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 Ai Wei Wei criticized the Chinese government for not properly investigating how shoddy school construction had caused the deaths of some 5000 children in the quake. The government never released those children’s names. Ai Wei Wei led a citizen’s inquiry into the children’s deaths and created three art pieces to honour them. One was this massive wall that lists the name of every child who died and includes each child’s date of birth, age, school class and home address. I photographed it on a visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario. As you stood in front of the installation you could hear the names of the children being read aloud.
This work called STRAIGHT contained rebar Ai Wei Wei collected from the sites of the schools that collapsed during the earthquake. He straightened all the bent rebar and arranged it in stacks to create an eery landscape. By straightening the pieces Ai Weiwei demonstrated his desire to try to make things right for the forgotten victims of the earthquake.In this exhibit called Snake Bag he memorializes the children of Sichuan with a snake made of children’s school bags. When Ai Weiwei visited the sites of the schools that had been destroyed he saw children’s backpacks scattered in the rubble, a tangible symbol of the boys and girls whose lives had been cut short.
What tangible symbols will we create to show we honour and cherish the lives of the people that will be lost during COVID-19?