Diane Stranz on American Life

My Life Would Suck Without You

Soundtrack:  Kelly Clarkson’s My Life Would Suck Without You  (duh . . . obvious).

A cluster of ‘synchronistic’ events happened in and around Tuesday March 10th which gave rise to this blog post.  I was retooling a scene in my screenplay where a secretary and I discuss how the marriages of the attorneys I worked with were primarily about social obligation and financial obligation instead of  true love, red hot I’D-DIE-WITHOUT-YOU PASSION . . . and that got me thinking about the topic of romantic love and relationship.  (Which is dangerous for someone who’s single, right?  HA!  I agree!)

Then that afternoon my upstairs neighbor came down to say hello:  she’s a Muslim from Pakistan and she just returned home from being over there four months nursing her brother.  She has two beautiful American daughters who are in college here in the D-FW metroplex, and BOY was I surprised when she informed me one daughter traveled to Pakistan and got married two months ago.   I knew she didn’t have a romantic relationship with anyone living in Pakistan, so I, being the stupidly naive person I tend to be, assumed she went to visit, happened to meet someone she fell madly in love with, and they went ahead and got married quickly.  (I know, I know:  I’m a retard). 

No, the reality is (of course) that the marriage was arranged and the daughter likely never met her fiance before she traveled to Pakistan to get married, per her family’s instructions.   My heart bleeds for this young woman, because even though each of my neighbor’s daughters adhere to the religious restrictions imposed by their orthodox parents and Mosque, you can SENSE their passionate desire to break free  –the American passion for individual freedom having had as much, if not greater, influence on the molding of their personalities and character as their centuries-old cultural and religious traditions. 

In this day and age, an arranged marriage is A HORRIBLE THING TO DO TO YOUR CHILD!!!   Yet when I went back to working on my screenplay, it was SHAZAM!  Here we  Americans have all the freedom in the world to marry only for love, to choose our mates for ourselves, and what do we go and do?  Enter freely into the practical equivalent of an arranged marriage, by marrying someone we don’t love because there is SOMETHING ELSE WE WANT FROM THE DEAL WHICH WE THINK OUTWEIGHS GENUINE LOVE AND MARITAL HAPPINESS.  What are we, total idiots?

Then I opened my Blockbuster Online movie which had just arrived — having no idea what movie it might be, since I had to shuffle my queue randomly at the last minute because so many movies were ‘wait-listed’ and currently unavailable — and the movie is Chris Cooper starring in Married Life . . . and damn if it wasn’t just TOTALLY about all these same relationship issues.  Cooper’s character is a wealthy businessman who has a terrific wife, but he’s grown slightly bored and takes a mistress.  One line from the movie particularly resonated with me.  Cooper and his wife are visiting with grandchildren on a Sunday afternoon, but all Cooper can think about is what pretext he can use to slip away and see his new mistress.  So he tells his wife he has to go into the office because of some unexpected, pressing business matter, and here’s the narrator’s great line:  “It has always been the privilege of the affluent to use their business as camoflouage.”  OH MY GOD IS THAT SO TRUE!  And it’s BACK TO MY SCREENPLAY, because affluence was a major negative in the story it tells.

THEN the next night on American Idol (Wednesday March 11th) Kelly Clarkson sang her new song My Life Would Suck Without You,  and listening to her lyrics was like wrapping up this multi-day contemplation on romantic love in a vein I support and agree with:  choosing to be with the one you love, loving the one you’ve chosen to be with and realizing that ‘loving someone in sickness and in health’ means you do not expect your lover to be perfect.  As Clarkson’s lyrics say:   

I know that I’ve got issues, but you’re pretty messed up too:  either way I’ve found out I’m nothing without you and we belong together.  You’ve got a piece of me and honestly, my life would suck without you!  Being with you is so dysfunctional, but I can’t let you go.

P.S.  My mother informed me this morning that March 21st is officially “Single Parent Day.”  So, here’s a shout out to all my fellow single parents.  Don’t forget that, in the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin,  “Beer is the evidence that God loves us.”    (As is wine, Jack Daniels, Gilbey’s . . . pantry staples one and all.)

Tapestries of Art will Change the World

Soundtrack for this Blog Post:  Ambrosian Junior Choir singing Suo Gan from the movie Empire of the Sun; Yo-Yo Ma playing Gabriel’s Oboe from The Mission; Jay Ungar’s Ashokan Farewell from Ken Burn’s documentary The Civil War

Why each of my blog posts from now on will recommend a ‘soundtrack’ to be played while reading the post, and, possibly, even quote a poem and/or painting and/or work of classic literature you should reflect upon as well:  Dorothy Day said that ‘Beauty will save the world,’ all true art contains beauty in abundance, and I believe in the transformative power of both beauty and art.  The purest form of beauty, in my opinion, is God’s natural Creation unadulterated by man (i.e. the beauty of nature, in all its wildness) — but art is God’s spirit expressing itself through man, so art is also a vehicle for beauty.

I especially believe in the transformative power of TAPESTRIES of art.  What is a Tapestry of Art?  It’s an interwoven blend of more than one art form in which the experience of the whole becomes exponentially greater than the sum of its parts (i.e., experiencing multiple, interrelated art forms at once can open dimensions inside you FAR beyond what experiencing one artform alone does) (being who God created you to be is all about nourishing, expanding and expressing your inner life — so, no, memorizing Bible quotes is NOT where it’s at).

This is why people are so affected by movie soundtracks:  because if you experience a song which just FITS with the scene you are watching, you are experiencing two powerful art forms at one time:  music and film.  This is why I also cannot complete a screenplay without also recommending a specific soundtrack to go along with it: the music which goes along with the story is not some random, unimportant part of the film that is best left to the discretion of someone else.  I am the artist crafting the art form which is my film script, and crafting the soundtrack is as much a part of my art as the story itself.  (At least this is how I feel.)

The Art Tapestry Project

Along these lines, I eventually plan to create, using artists who live and work  in my own community, The Art Tapestry Project:  a poet writes a poem, then a musician writes music inspired by the poem and records it — then a painter creates a painting inspired by BOTH the poem and the music.   The resulting collaborations (13 to 20 in number) would be published in a spiral bound booklet with a CD for the music.  When lying flat and open, the poem would appear on the left, a color reprint of the painting on the right, and the recipient of the Art Tapestry experience would listen to the relevant CD track while reading the poem and reflecting on the painting.  AMAZING EXPERIENCES would follow, I am positive.   (I contribute this idea freely to the public domain: feel free to rip it off and do it in your own community.  Go art!)

My first experiment in this direction was having Dallas painter Larry Harran paint while listening to a recording of Bach’s St. John’s Passion, then we exhibited the final product at a performance of St. John’s Passion by the Dallas Bach Society (this was in 1997).  It was totally awesome, and led to the inspiration for the Art Tapestry Project described above.  But soon thereafter is when God led me into being REALLY REALLY poor — to the point where my second husband Jeff and I were actually homeless for a short period of time — so all of those cool ideas had to be shelved . . . UNTIL NOW!  WHOOPEE!    (If I can figure out how to digitize pictures of Larry’s art, I will eventually try to add them to this post.)

That’s all I have to say for today, but I will definitely write more on this topic in the future since it is so important and foundational for positive world change.  It is not really political activists who will change the world, but ARTISTS and LOVERS and — especially — the LOVERS OF ARTISTS!!  (smile)  I have been an activist at times in my past, and plan to be again in the future:  so I’m not condemning activism.  But to place activism above truth and beauty is like trying to get the tail to wag the dog.  (And by all means go watch Barry Levinson’s 1998 movie by that name — Wag the Dog — starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro.  ESPECIALLY if you want fuel for political activism!)