Character: Build It Here
Strengthening the Ecosphere of Kindness
"I'm glad it's Daddy's birthday. I'm glad we all get cake. And Daddy, if you were little, I'd be your friend."
Andrew Solomon’s son, George, 4 years old, in his speech given at his father's 50th birthday party
The above quote says so much about the relationship between this father and his son. Andrew Solomon is a writer and lecturer on psychology, politics, and the arts; winner of the National Book Award; and an activist in LGBT rights, mental health, and the arts. He is one of the most popular speakers on T.E.D. and one of my favorites as well. His insight and wisdom refresh my spirit like coming upon an undiscovered waterfall while walking in the woods.
Here are excerpts from two of his talks - one about finding meaning in adversity and the other about loving without restriction:
How the worst moments in our lives make us who we are
In 1988, I went to Moscow to interview artists of the Soviet underground, and I expected their work to be dissident and political. But the radicalism in their work actually lay in reinserting humanity into a society that was annihilating humanity itself, as, in some senses, Russian society is now doing again. One of the artists I met said to me, "We were in training to be not artists but angels."
In 1991, I went back to see the artists I'd been writing about, and I was with them during the putsch that ended the Soviet Union, and they were among the chief organizers of the resistance to that putsch. And on the third day of the putsch, one of them suggested we walk up to Smolenskaya. And we went there, and we arranged ourselves in front of one of the barricades, and a little while later, a column of tanks rolled up, and the soldier on the front tank said, "We have unconditional orders to destroy this barricade. If you get out of the way, we don't need to hurt you, but if you won't move, we'll have no choice but to run you down." And the artists I was with said, "Give us just a minute. Give us just a minute to tell you why we're here." And the soldier folded his arms, and the artist launched into a Jeffersonian panegyric to democracy such as those of us who live in a Jeffersonian democracy would be hard-pressed to present. And they went on and on, and the soldier watched, and then he sat there for a full minute after they were finished and looked at us so bedraggled in the rain, and said, "What you have said is true, and we must bow to the will of the people. If you'll clear enough space for us to turn around, we'll go back the way we came." And that's what they did. Sometimes, forging meaning can give you the vocabulary you need to fight for your ultimate freedom.
Love no matter what
And there are people who think that the existence of my family somehow undermines or weakens or damages their family. And there are people who think that families like mine shouldn't be allowed to exist. And I don't accept subtractive models of love, only additive ones. And I believe that in the same way that we need species diversity to ensure that the planet can go on, so we need this diversity of affection and diversity of family in order to strengthen the ecosphere of kindness.