#19 In a Time of Terrorism and Puffballs



1. I, Tonya, is filled with all kinds of nasty characters. But who's the nastiest one of all?

Walking out of the theater having just seen I, Tonya, I knew I really loved the film for all kinds of reasons, both cinematic and philosophical, and I knew I needed to write about it in terms of character, but how?–– when all the leads were some unholy combination of abusive, vulgar, compulsive, obsessive, violent, narcissistic, and ignorant. And yet, Tony Harding herself, who shares a good portion of these traits, comes off sympathetically. How can this be? And what's there to say about sympathetic nastiness? 

Watch the trailer here

When the scandal was happening in 1994, I kept up with the narrative twists, making easy assumptions along the way: out of an obsessiveness gone rogue, sportsmanship was replaced by greed for gold, and Harding was some light shade of monster. 


But how easy and quick my assumptions turned out to be! And that's the biggest nasty surprise I felt deep in my tummy on the way out from the movie theater: all of us are fucked up in some way or other, and assuming the worst about people gets us nowhere. What would happen instead if we held our judgements in abeyance, and replaced them with "I don't know?" or "I wasn't there, so I can't say"?  

I heard a friend say "Tony Harding is my spirit animal." I now completely understand what she meant. Compassion is a much more powerful sword than all vulgar media portrayals put together. 


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2. People of character see the world through a lens of celebration. 

What would happen if we celebrated what was right with the world instead of wallowing in what is wrong with it? 

"I just decided if I had a choice between a world based on scarcity and fear, and one based on possibility, then, man, I was choosing possibility. And that no matter how dry and desolate, no matter how bleak and devoid of possibilities a situation might seem, if I could just celebrate the best of it... I could find a perspective that could transform the ordinary into the extraordinary....The world is in flames, war, terrorism, poverty, global warming, and you're shooting puffballs? Well, to the cynics I say: change your lens."

Watch a National Geographic photographer show you how in this exuberantly joyful talk:


3. The votes are in! Book #2 of Beer + Book Club is... 


It seems like maybe character & creativity have something in common. Let's find out what. 

Our first meeting to talk about the first five chapters will be in two weeks, on Friday, February 2nd at 6:30pm @ Radio Coffee and Beer. Join us! 

4. Bonus Wisdom Pinup:


Do people still give a shit about character? Please forward this newsletter to anyone who wants to be less of a dick to others, to the animals, to the planet or to themselves.