The Beauties & The Beasts #8

PATHOS Penpal Project

Deutsch-Amerikanischer Briefaustausch zwischen Antigone Akgün (DE) und John L. Peacock (USA)

Im Rahmen der Reihe «King Kong und die weissen Frauen»

Dear Antigone,

I have often wondered how integrated I have been in the system that brought me up. I know, ultimately, that the answer is fully integrated, otherwise I’d be “off the grid” eating homegrown meals and not using heightened technology. But I still love to live in the fantasy that I’m really raising it up – or busting it down – from the inside, and because of that I’m not really a part of the system so much as a subversive, bucking against it. When I taught English Composition, it was through the lens of critical thinking, asking questions of every “source” the students came across (even me, their teacher), and mistrusting information until it was properly verified. I purposefully focused on building those skills in my students because the system, as I know it these days, seems to run on blind following, picking sides and being sheep to that side, and mob mentality. Then I taught Theatre Education, which focused on empathy for others, understanding differences, and connection; again, this was done purposefully to counteract the selfishness, division, and misunderstanding that seems to be the cornerstone of “the system.”

These days I don’t teach. Too jaded, I guess. When I realized I was perpetuating more that subverting, that I was completing the circle as opposed to breaking it, I just couldn’t do it anymore. But is Art really the answer? Does Art allow us “to enjoy and enrich (ourselves) personally,” as you said, or is it just becoming the tool of cake and circuses, needed to continue the cycle of the rich and powerful in the guise of understanding and beauty? See? Jaded.

I hear ya on isolation during the pandemic. I’ve been so lucky, being in lockdown with a partner, a dog, and a cat, but know of so many who are hurting for companionship and/or at least connection, and it seems the most people can get is through digital connection. Are the social medias saving us from depression and desperation? I’ve seen news programs dedicated to telling us that they are; TIME Magazine just announced their “people of the year,” and this year’s “tech” person of the year is the inventor of Zoom…it makes sense, but still feels so strange. I remember reading articles about how the digital era is destroying our youth’s empathy and communication skills, now that same technology is being praised for how it “brings us all together.”

Are we? Are we coming together through social medias?

I could have sworn they were tearing us apart. But who am I; just a writer and an artist, right? I guess we should just leave it up to the professionals, right? They know what’s best for me…right??

Okay, that one point I think I wanted to make, back at the beginning of this, has seemed to turn into a rant. So I’ll leave it and talk about the other thing that really stood out to me from your last letter: “this is one of the most disgraceful things: trying to convince other people of your value.” That hit me like a ton of bricks. As the youngest of six children, born nearly twenty years after my oldest sibling, and the only redhead in the family (it does mean something), I came to consciousness trying to prove, to convince, to show them all (and the rest of the world, thereafter) that I was important enough to talk to, let alone look at. I’ve noticed this, my “trying to convince other people of (my) value,” and have tried to live more for me, for what I feel is good and right and important, and not what society (the system) tells me I should feel is good, and right, and important. But I still fall into the same traps of trying to impress, over and over again, these loops of wanting to prove myself to everyone else, before pushing away and just trying to be me and to live my life the way I want to.

So, that will be my new year’s resolution: to simply live the life I love and create the Art I love. Not for anyone else, but for me. If others share in it, that’ll be great, but it won’t be for them. And I’ll purposefully do it as I purposefully taught things not in our schoolbooks. Yeah. Even as there’s a voice in my head saying I’ll never sustain it, I’ll fight against that voice, declare my intentions here, and strive to stay true to me. Here goes!

I want to wish you a wonderful New Year. May it be filled with Health & Happiness, however that may look these days, and also with Art. May we meet in the fall and celebrate each other’s individuality. And before then, I look forward to reading your next letter. Be Well!


Jon L Peacock



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