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A response to Clifton Duncan
Clifton Duncan posted A Brutally Honest Update this morning. He writes:
“…though I exhibit all outward signs of life, I believe I died on the inside a long time ago.
“I did my first play at 16. What turned out to be my final play occurred when I was 37.
“I simply do not know what to do with my life at this juncture.
“I feel guilty that I haven’t moved on as quickly as others forced out of their careers by dogmatic Covidianism.
“Am I so dysfunctional, so bogged down by bitterness and resentment, that I’ll be paralyzed for the foreseeable future?”
This stopped me. It brought me to tears. And it felt familiar. Not because I am in the same place – I’m not. I am one of the fortunate ones whose lives were not so deeply tied to the parts of the world that went along with the Covid Nonsense (my term for it all), that they were ripped apart in 2020. My husband and I both work from home, we’re both mostly homebodies, and most of my extended family share my views regarding both the state and allopathic medicine.
But I’ve had brushes with what he’s talking about, and I’ll try to describe them.
When I was in junior high school, someone made a scheduling mistake and I was not put into drama class. I loved drama class. It was one of the things I was really invested in, and it was important to me. I was devastated. I couldn’t think about anything else, and I experienced an almost physical pain, like a kind of suffocation in my chest. The mistake was resolved, and I got back into drama class, and the whole thing was not a big deal. But I always remembered that feeling.
I started taking ballet classes when I was 31. I had taken some ballet as a child, but hadn’t studied it seriously. I started it again as an adult, not because I wanted to be a professional dancer, or for the “exercise.” I did it, and do it, because it feeds my soul.
In 2007, we moved from New York City to California, and I left behind the ballet class that had been my home for the past five years. This wasn’t just any ballet class. I had taken many many classes over the years, some with truly wonderful teachers. But this one was special. The instructor had danced with some of the biggest and best companies, choreographers, and dancers in the world, and she took her adult students seriously. She treated us all as if we were professionals – and some of my classmates were.
Leaving that class was the hardest part about leaving New York for me. Soon after the move, I began having what would become recurring dreams. The details of these dreams would change, but the theme was the same: I was struggling to get back to my ballet class. In some dreams, I was living in Hong Kong and trying to get to my class in NYC; In others, I was living in NYC, but the location or the time had changed; Sometimes I had lost my tights and leotard and was scrambling to find them. In all the dreams, the feeling was the same: That aching in my chest from junior high school – as if my heart were being both compressed, and pulled in multiple directions.
These dreams continued for years. Ironically, I have been able to return to my ballet class because of the “Covid Nonsense”, as they are now available online. Again, I am not a professional dancer. This class is not my whole life. And yet the pain of losing it impacted me at a deep level.
So much has been written about the harm inflicted on humanity by the “Covid Nonsense”: About the economic devastation, the small businesses that no longer exist, the return of starvation to third-world countries that had only recently risen above abject poverty; About the impact on our physical health of the lockdowns, the restrictions, the masks, and of course the vaccines; About the emotional harm, amounting to torture in many cases, of enforced isolation for children, teenagers, the elderly, and those who cannot comprehend why they have been abandoned.
But there is a dimension to all of this that is difficult to write about, and Clifton’s post touches on it. The things that give our lives meaning necessarily involve other people. They also often involve organizations and institutions. The more advanced a civilization is, the more interconnected its members become, because they believe they are able to trust the structures that allow them to connect more widely with each other. But when it turns out that those structures cannot be trusted, many of those connections are broken, some irreparably.
This breaking has consequences that go beyond the material. Many of us talk about being in a “spiritual war”, and what Clifton has experienced is a poignant example of this. What he has suffered is not just an assault on his job, on his source of income, his profession, but on his spirit. It may be difficult to quantify, but it is a very real thing, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find that most of us have experienced this kind of spiritual pain over the past three years.
I want to reach out to Clifton Duncan and hug him and tell him it’s all going to be OK. But of course I don’t know that it is. What I can tell him though is that he is not alone. The forces that have hit him in the soul have hit many others in the same place, in ways that aren’t always easy to describe.
I talk a lot about building the parallel economy, creating parallel institutions in health care, education, food independence, and all of the areas that have been subsumed by the corporate state, and which are now functioning in ways that are contrary to our interests. But it is not only these practical, material spheres of our lives that have been assaulted. Our souls have been assaulted, and we must rebuild there too. In fact, maybe that is where it must begin.
In these past three years (for much longer, in fact), all of humanity has been under siege. We have been bombarded and shattered as if in war. Now we are sitting in the rubble, coming to our senses, gathering up the pieces, while wondering when the next bombardment will come. As we pick up those pieces, and fix what is fixable, we should not forget that some of what has been broken is not visible. Some of it is not “practical”, not in service of our immediate survival needs, but of something deeper and more fundamental. Among the things that have been broken are the things that give us a reason to want to survive.
There is critically important work for artists to do in this regard in the years ahead. As much as the world needs food that is not poisonous, medical care that won’t kill us, and education that serves the student rather than the state, we need to be reminded why life is worth living. We need to see it, touch it, taste it. Being an artist in the world that is coming may look very different from how it has looked in the past. I don’t know precisely what it will look like, but I know that artists are going to be more important than ever for the wellbeing, and yes even survival, of humanity. And I hope Clifton will be a part of that.