When I walk out my door, I don’t see signs of crisis. Nature seems to be thriving and my neighbors seem to be happy. I am dependent on others to gain more insight and information about the world. My neighbors share amazingly delicious food and heartbreaking stories. While searching for art on Lesvos, I came across the photographer Tzeli Hadjidmitrou. Her photographs show a Lesvos of beauty, freedom, and pleasure. The way it should be.
In an interview she said that we have the right to be how we want, to have pleasure without guilt. That we end up reacting instead of acting, never really doing what we want. She said that we must believe that we have the right to be how we want, then we will see a change first inside ourselves, then in the people close to us, and then in society.
These are inspiring words and yet I experience them as painful when juxtaposed against the migrant crisis. I imagine people bathing, fishermen out to sea, realizing that there are suddenly more lost people than fish in the waters. Reality snaps them out of a dream of self-realization and forces them to react to waves of suffering. They didn’t only read about it in a newspaper.
Dreams of migrants are also interrupted, and all inspirational quotes become absurd. “What’s meant for you will find you when the time is right.” Pondering about what direction to take in life is quite different than fighting for survival. How to act in this situation and not just react?
I try to put myself in their shoes, knowing that it could be me, it could be any of us. The Syrian artist Abdalla Al Omari reimagines the world leaders as refugees.
He says “In this universe without gravity, all we can hold on to is our vulnerability. I have convinced myself it is the strongest weapon humankind possesses, way more powerful than the trail of power games, bomb craters and bullet holes in our collective memories. Vulnerability is a gift we should all celebrate.”
The thought of taking action, of acting and not just reacting, conjures up notions of strength and boldness, but maybe the way to act is to find the courage to be vulnerable and meet others through vulnerability.