Art and Music

January 15, 2021

Dear Hope Nation,

Hope is a lot of things. Today, I want to talk about two of them. Before anyone accuses me of playing favorites because of any particular ability or interest on my part, let me explain a few things. If the topic were ping-pong, one might have a case. At one point in my life, I thought I was reasonably good at table tennis. More honestly, I thought I was really good. Once I met Eric Dancause, who used to work at Hope, I knew I had never been anything more than an Army barracks champ in a barracks where table tennis wasn’t as popular as beer drinking. I was the one-eyed man in the land of the blind, the king of ping mediocrity.

Likewise, if chess were the subject, while I have no particular ability, I do have considerable interest in the game. From childhood, I have lost with panache and joie de vivre to players from all over the world. On the rare times I win, I am gracious and magnanimous, waiting until I’m alone before doing a victory dance. I’d like to say this is due to my humility, but the truth is I’m an even worse dancer than chess player. I will not let my opponent see me flail about arrhythmically. In fact, I haven’t danced in public in more than 30 years. The last time I did so, a six-year-old boy in leg braces and using crutches came across the dance floor and said, “Mister, you should sit down. Everyone’s laughing at you.” True story.

 No, the two things I want to talk about are art and music, each of which is embedded in Hope’s DNA. Doubtless the history of humanity is recorded and propelled by its relationship to these two forms of interior decoration, a term I don’t use lightly. Visual art is decoration for space; music is decoration for time. Let me explain.

Any visitor to Hope is struck by all the member-made art decorating the walls. Whether the paintings are beautiful and demonstrate real talent—and there are many of those—or simply a record of a how a human being spent 20 minutes of her time after attending a recovery meeting, each and every picture transmits the message, “I was here! I did this! I am somebody! I matter!” With more than 450 pieces of art hanging at Hope, that’s a lot of mattering. Hope’s space is decorated with meaning.

Likewise, whether it’s one person plinking on the piano in the back room, another playing a guitar or all the talent and chutzpah of Sicker than Most performances, music is a part of Hope. Bionik, Natalie, Joey, Andy, Justin, Scott and a dozen others are gifted songwriters or performers or both, but it’s the ones of us who are not great, but still sing or play, that really break my heart in a beautiful way. In a funny sense, and I’m not sure I can explain it, it’s the act of trying, the process of attempting to make music, that decorates time at Hope.

I can’t explain the space/time continuum, but I know their decoration makes my life a bit better.

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith

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