Breaking

“Just think of him as a hairy toddler,” said my new friend, Audra. I chuckled thinking about what it was going to be like interacting with a six year old chimp while trying to film a story that illustrates how generous a human heart can be.

Of course, I was excited, for a host of reasons. Having never interacted so closely with chimpanzees, I was going to see closeup the emotional lives they lead. I knewthat I was going to be engaged from the moment I began working. But it’s what you don’t know that you don’t know that gets you.

I didn’t know that I was going to learn more about what healing looks like and what happens when one of us decides that breaking is only the beginning of a powerful journey. Most of us, at one time or another, have suffered something that brings us close to losing all faith in humanity. But it is how we heal that is the mark of our character. With a lot of hard work, and some very devoted people, we will show you how one woman helps these beautiful creatures heal, and how she heals in the process. It is a story that needs telling because it tells us a lot about ourselves. It teaches us what kindness and communication can do for the broken. It teaches us what being human should look like.

Thanks to a constellation of stars achieving an unprecedented alignment, I am involved in this project. One of those stars is a man named Adam Neal Gonzalez, who, I KNEW would be perfect to capture the story on film. It took no time at all for the two of us to get emotionally invested in what Audra is doing with the chimps. I’m not going to sugar coat it and make it sound easy. The animals are beautiful and intriguing. But they are also intelligent, territorial and extraordinarily strong. We keep a respectful distance. It is only because humans are good liars that we hold dominion over these creatures. What Audra does to give them a voice through art is nothing short of beautiful.

Chimping
Chimping

I can’t wait to share that beauty with all of you.

Meeting Sontag

No, I’m not sure if I’ll like her work. In fact, there is a good chance I won’t. She called herself a “militant feminist but not a feminist militant.” I’ll have to ferret out just how much militancy I’ll be able to stomach. And of course, she wrote “On Photography,” which is simply a nail in the “have to get to know her” coffin, since I am also a professional photographer. Rarely does one wax philosophical about photography like she did in that work.

But now, after watching Regarding Susan Sontag, I feel compelled to get to know her better as a writer. It’s a sickness, I think. I fantasize that studying her life – one in a long wish list of writers whose lives I’d like to study – will give me some insight into what made her the writer she was, and then magically provide some glimmer into my own wellspring. I’m not the only aspiring writer who thinks this way. In fact, I think it is the herald characteristic of writers in general.

Sontag said in a radio interview, “writers are interested in all things.” With that, I entirely agree. So, with hot tea in hand, I add her to the list of people whose lives I might find somewhat helpful in navigating my own creative psychoses. Perhaps you laugh at the use of the word psychoses, but for anyone who has obsessively searched for that ephemeral thread that, when caught, can be spun into something more, it is the right word.

“She discovered the brilliance of talent, rather than the brilliance of intellect.” Stephen Koch said of Sontag’s relationship with Irene Fornes. That is the infinite search. How ironic that the brilliance of intellect recognizes the absence of the brilliance of talent. It is surely what makes us the brooding, cranky creatures we can frequently be.

Who’s on your list?