Sunday, 30 December 2007

Perspective


I have written before about the wonderful freedom that living in a small town provides to learn about yourself, and to redefine yourself. Like everything else, though, there is a dark side to this freedom. In this instance, I believe it is the danger of losing perspective.

Swimming in a small pool, it is easy to slide from the wonder of finding new talents and inward rejoicing, to self-aggrandizement. From finding your talents or the new service you can offer being one of the few in town, or the one in town to One of The Few, or The One.

Now I am not saying that there aren’t people in both Todos Santos and Comox whose skills and talents transcend the boundaries of the pool. I have been excited to find amazing musical and theatre talent in and around Comox. Todos Santos has sage and profound thinkers, and excellent writers, who spend at least part of the year here. Not everything in either location, however, is world-class, or even province or state class.

What I find most interesting about Todos Santos, however, is the way that some of the local perspectives can achieve almost mythic status. Open critique of such symbols appears actively frowned upon, on the grounds that it attacks the community and is not supportive of courageous individuals. Of course, the critique simply goes underground in the local hard currency of gossip.

I don’t see this public group-think in Comox. Maybe that’s because we Canadians are pretty laid back, and we don’t take ourselves that seriously. That’s also how we kept out of trouble in the world, until recently. But I won’t go there…

I am not saying that we should regard the activities in these towns with the perspective of a jaded city-dweller, looking down on the country bumpkins as they go about their lives. Far from it. Last year, I, and many others went to the one-night local production of “Nunsense”. I spoke to a visitor from San Diego and asked her how she was enjoying it. She was confused by the enthusiastic response from the locals in the audience, and attributed it to there not being a lot of competing entertainment in town. It was not, in her view, of the same caliber to which she, as a sophisticated city-dweller, had become accustomed. I think she was missing the point, taking another, invalid, perspective. True, the singing was not perfect and the production was maybe not as polished as in a Broadway offering. What the audience was responding to was, I believe, the effort being put into the show by local amateurs for their benefit, the joy that the actors were showing, the sight of revered town figures in nun’s habits, happy to poke fun at themselves. And the unpretentious price did not preclude anyone seeing the show.

Perspective is a matter of seeing things as they really are. Without it, and the ability to receive gentle, well-meaning critique, I think it is hard to continue to grow.

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