I’ve had a fantasy for many years. I suppose most artists do. A pilgrimage of sorts into the wild wild woods, back to myself and the deep mysteries and recesses of my imagination. I took a boat to a small island off the coast of BC to write for a little while. What a luxury this is. Nestled deep in the trees, with the sound of running water freshly fallen from the mountains above, and journeying their way into the mouth of the ocean that gently sways below. It’s hard not to let time pass and get carried away by conversations with the trees and of course with Pacha Mama herself. But that’s not why I’m here. Not entirely at least. It’s time to put thoughts into words onto the page and hopefully into the hearts of those who read them.
So recently I went to a Canadian short film line up at a famous Canadian festival. The films were hit or miss, some were fantastic, others were questionable, however I have yet to attend any festival where every short film in a lineup is a home-run. But I digress. What concerns me, or rather made me spit fire was the fact that there were only two people of color, (ok three if you count the Spanish dude having sex) on screen that evening. And all of these people of color were minor characters, in probably a total of twenty characters that graced the screen that night.
One particular film starred Sarah Gadon, whose face is recognizable from many films but most recently from Sarah Polly’s series ‘Alias Grace’. Sarah is arguably one of the best young Canadian actresses around and very deserving of the roles she has been crafting over the years. But it reminded me of an article I read recently where the writer explained how actors of color are only now being given the chance to carry films as leads, and as a result, it is unfair to weigh their performances as equally as someone who has been manicured to be a ‘lead’ their entire lives.
You see, in the same lineup was a film which follows two little girls who compete in their attempt at saving the life of a wounded bunny. Both lead girls were white - in an all white cast of five. Did these two girls do a good job in the film? Sure. They were fine. But it goes to show that from an early age, we cast white children to play lead roles. They are groomed to become the next Sarah Gadon. Could one of the characters in this short film have been a young girl of visible ethnicity without compromising the story? Yes.
And it made me question why this line up of films was considered ‘Canadian’? The Canada I know and have lived in my entire life looks very different then what was presented on screen that night.
Having spent time working in both the America and Canada, this illustration of Canadian filmmaking is unsettling. As Canadians we pat ourselves on the back for being open minded and inclusive and in many ways we are. But in America, despite the laundry list of social problems, there is space for people to say - Me Too. Let’s be honest, America is a racist, misogynistic country — but it’s a country where the loudest wins. And where media is realizing the need for inclusion in their stories, the need to melt the pot a little bit more.
But I don’t see this taking place in Canada. The Canada represented on television and in film, particularly in film, seems to be a place where the white person’s (usually the white man’s) story is told. So much so that we don’t even question the very fact that there are no people of color on screen in a Canadian short film lineup. There are great steps being taken for Indigenous stories being made, but there is an uncomfortable segregation in our story telling culture. Canadian Europids tell theirs, the Quebecois tell theirs, more and more Indigenous people are telling theirs and every so often we get a sprinkling of films by and about other races. But no one mixes. In many ways our filmmaking and story telling mentality is far more out of touch than our country’s political and social perspectives. Or is it? Perhaps our story telling is shining a light on a real truth that most Canadians are too polite to express outwardly.
In my mind, the only solution is nurturing more visible minorities behind the scenes, who make and finance content. Hopefully in another decade or two we won’t be applauding ourselves for another beautiful movie about indigenous people that is the buzz of the festival circuit. Because by that point it will be a non-issue. The norm will be the myriad of color we see on screen, not supporting the white man’s story, but rather coming together to tell the human story.
I think the goal should be that we all turn beige.
I do love being a mother. All in all it’s made me a happier, kinder, fuller human. And that’s always a good thing. But don’t call me ‘mama’. I have a name. It’s Agam. And although motherhood is one thing I do, it’s not everything. I am more than someone’s mother. I am a woman, an artist, a wife, a lover, a daughter, a sister, a student, a teacher, a sometimes cook, an all the time bargain shopper…you get the point. So when someone, a friend, a co-worker, a family member sees me and says, ‘Hey Mama’, three things pop in my head: Has this person forgotten my name and doesn’t know how to acknowledge me? Is this person unsure as to how to pronounce my name? Or, have we elapsed back 50 years and all of a sudden I’m wearing an apron with boob cut-outs for the hundred children pulling at my dress screaming to be nursed?
So…just a friendly reminder: Don’t call me ‘mama’. It’s Agam. Stress on ‘A’s, which sounds more like an ‘Uh’.
I did a ceremony. A ceremony. For those of you who know what I'm talking about, you know what I'm talking about. It was a spiritual, psychedelic experience, unlike anything that I have ever experienced. It wasn't my first time being a part of a ceremony, but it was my first time being involved in anything this vivid, this intense, and this life changing.
My intention was numerous. I wanted answers and I wanted to let go.
I believe in trans-generational pain. I believe we carry with us the things of our ancestry, both positive and negative. They live within our DNA, taking residence in our pain body, and as we age, we may find we hold on to things that are not us and that do not serve us.
For instance someone with a family history of poverty, may always be worried about money, may not be able to hold on to money or make money quite as easily as someone who has the same opportunities but has never had that history in their family. As is the same with violence, slavery, abuse, addiction and the list goes on and on. The similarly the opposite is true. Someone's who comes from an upperclass pedigree, who'se family has always known money and power will hold that information inside their bodies, and will understand instinctively how to take up space and how to receive. It is not simply that they have been raised this way, it is in their bones. Obviously there are exceptions to every rule. The universe is vast, ever changing and has the dynamic large picture at play, that we can't even comprehend. But I do believe that on the whole there is truth to these ideas.
So, stepping into the ceremony I wanted to let go of the suitcase I've been carrying. And I do believe that it was done.
To anyone who has never had a psychedelic experience within a ceremony, I don't know if I can do justice talking about it. But I think that if everyone could have the opportunity to take part in a safe journey, with an experienced shaman, they should. It's simply a start. It's like the blinds opened and what you knew was true all along. The trick is to viscerally know it's still there when the blinds eventually close again. To integrate the teachings and the messages that were passed forward during the journey.
When I was younger I loved going to the video store. New releases. Popular dramas. Foreign films. Family musicals. Top rated B horror movies about Yeti -- it was all there. The physical action of browsing through a video store was part of the movie night ritual. At some point on Friday, between coming home from school and having dinner I would load into the car with my dad and older sister while my mom made dinner, and we would be whisked off to the local video store. 5 minutes later we would hop out and begin the selection process. My strategy was always the same - pick 6 movies and then let my sister narrow it down to three. Always three. Get two release rent one free. Maybe add a bag of microwavable popcorn for an extra 99 cents, if I was feeling inspired. I was always feeling inspired. I would check out with the cute older video store guy, all the while not making eye contact because I didn't want to seem desperate and voila -- my entire weekend was planned.
The death of the video store is a tragedy. I often think about how millennials will never know the satisfaction of flipping through video after video with a store full of other video renters who are all there for the same reason - to be transported to another land, where lives are more interesting, where the everyman is the hero, where there is a great want and an even greater need, all before heading back to work Monday morning.
Can we just talk about the Beatles for a moment? What were they drinking? Because I want what they're having. It blows my mind. 50 years ago they were making music that caught the frequency, rode it and is still relevant, authentic and plain good in a world where--well, have you heard the radio these days?
Which brings me to my next thought -- destiny. Living in the 'create your own adventure' kind of era that we do, where The Secret and such schools of thought are prevalent and quoted almost as doctrine, puts a lot of pressure on the lowly individual regarding their own place in the cosmos.
'Who am I? What is my purpose?' are burdensome questions. Is my destiny escaping me because I had a bad day and couldn't tune back into the cheery radio wave? Am I not loving myself, loving others, detaching, attaching, envisioning well enough? I suppose these questions have been plaguing the average Jo and Joanne since the beginning. Decartes seemed to have found some peace with "I think, therefore I am", which unfortunately is now debunked, since 'thinking' as it turns out by the fathers of New Age Spirituality is no longer something to brag about.
But the Beatles, were just some average dudes from Liverpool who could hum a tune, who happened to stumble onto a life that I'm pretty sure none of them had expected. Which makes me think, that destiny must have a way of finding you, even when you're not sure what you're looking for. Of course hard work, preparation, yadayada has a lot to do with it -- But John Lennon was going to be John Lennon whether he liked it or not. Nelson Mandela was going to be Nelson Mandela. Oprah isn't a dog groomer in Philadelphia - she's Oprah. So there's got to be a big hand playing the chess board, right? No matter how badly we want to go right, if we're meant to go left we will, right? There's some relief about this. There's something about knowing that I'm not the only one who is driving this boat, that relaxes me. Because let's be honest, I don't know a whole lot about boats, and I'm not a great swimmer. I like the idea that I can let go of the wheel for a moment and enjoy the breeze before we head into the deep waters of Babylon.
Can I tell you how much this word irks me? Confidence. It's followed me around, annoying me for years.
How many sensitive people in this world have heard this?
"Just be more confident."
Great. Thanks for the advise. I never thought of it.
If I could put my paralysis into a box and only take it out when useful or convenient to share my vulnerability in a timing appropriate, nice way -- I would. But it's not that easy. Confidence is an obscure and elusive thing. It comes and goes at the oddest times. When you're at the grocery store checkout, talking to the bus driver, or with your neighbor you can be refreshingly charming, honest and authentically yourself. When you're at a meeting, in a class room, or at a black tie event, confidence escapes you. You stand next to the waiter carrying the prawn thingies that no one likes, but even he gets more attention than you do. Because you hide yourself, despite everything inside of you saying I'm here. See me. Hear me. I am more than this.
But guess what? There is a shift. People are rethinking this confidence thing. Sure sure, it would be great to bathe in a sea of self love and emerge from it like a hairless mermaid, and for those who do - Bravo. You're impressive.
But for those who don't, take solace. For, what is better than confidence? Courage. The courage to stand with yourself when every ounce of you wants to crumble. The courage to strike up that conversation with the waiter, or the dude in the tie, or the chick with the mohawk, even though you're not feeling particularly sure of yourself. The courage to go to that interview, that audition, or that date. The courage to laugh at yourself, at the world, at this very moment.
Courage is what confidence is not -- action. It pushes you to take a step into becoming the person you know you are underneath all the neurotic chatter. While confidence says, 'Yeah, I got this', courage says, "I don't know how to do this, but something inside of me does." Courage is compassionate towards the parts of ourselves that feel crippled. It takes into consideration the bullies, the pitfalls, the broken dreams, the skinned knees and the bruised hearts. Courage kisses those hurt parts of ourselves and tells us to get back up. Courage tells us that it's ok to be scared, and to try again.
Someone forgot to relog into twitter. If you don't log in every 30 days, after disabling it..it's gone. And so it's gone. There goes 9000 followers. Oh well. There's something refreshing about anonymity. What a luxury these days. Yes, my vanity has some issue with it. Perhaps my agents do too.
But we'll all be anonymous in the end. Turn into dust. Blow off into the wind. Off the cliffs and the buildings and settle back into the Earth. The way it should be.