Sheri and I went down to San Francisco this weekend to see Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman entertain us for a few hours on a stage. It was a gloriously strange combination of music and spoken word. The art of music commingling on a stage with the art of fiction. You can also throw in a whole lot of love.
The love between Gaiman and Palmer, and of course the love the audience shouted upon them (Neil always seemed vaguely amused when the shouting was directed at him). I have always thought it an interesting twist in the randomness of life that two of my favorite producers of art found each other. It was incredible to watch them together. It was three hours of brilliant madness. I would have sat for three more.
One of things I have always loved about Amanda Palmer is how she just leaves it all out there. She is what she is and makes no apologies for it. She is an artist who is constantly searching for what she will be next. She has a legion of fans who are devoted to her ability to take chances. Devoted to her willingness to be outside the box.
Amanda talked about one of her big influences during the night and I was a little surprised to find myself choked up. For her it was the books of Judy Blume. I can’t say I had one author but I know literature saved me. I read to get away from the pain. I read to see better worlds. I read to momentarily be transported to a place where I was free of worry. Where I was the hero and not the victim.
It was when Amanda said the words, “you are not so strange” where I felt the tears come to my eyes. I understood this as a kid. It is what books did for me. It made me feel like I had a chance. That the weirdness I always felt being on the outside looking in was only temporary. I knew I could fight my way through it. I could find a way to turn who I was into an adult worth knowing. I was strange. I am strange, but not so strange that the world could not be my playground. Just strange enough to want to write. To create art. To teach children.
If there is anything I pass onto my students I hope it is these two things, love for art and love for themselves. I strive everyday to let them know it is okay to be themselves. If that person is outside the box. Not quite the norm. No worries there is a place for you here. If there are moments it feels like all is lost. I try to show them there is hope. That if they find the path they can find a world where it gets better. I try to let them know. They are not so strange and it is an honor to know them.