This video was made as part of an art project - Clare Adams' OXHOUSE Alphabet. She invited artists to contribute to an online alphabet made for her baby. See the whole project at energy-of-clare.tk/OXHOUSE.htm
I chose the letter X, for Xenophobia. Here is the letter I wrote to Clare Adams' unborn baby.
X is for Xenophobia
Xenophobia means a fear of what is different from the self. The word comes from the Greek words ξένος (xenos), meaning “stranger,” and φόβος (phobos), meaning “fear.” Today, on the eve of your birth, xenophobia seems to structure so much of our world. Differences in national origin, religion, skin colour, gender, orientation, age, species identity – too many differences to ever be enumerated – all make us strange and strangers to one another, and that strangeness is seen as a threat, a source of fear, a reason for armor and violence.
In the digital world you are born into, we can at least have disembodied dialogue with strangers. Perhaps difference comes to seem less strange, when you can read about it and dialogue with “others.” And through the magic network of the Internet you may never have to think you are uniquely strange in your own difference. No matter what your particular identity, you can find people who can confirm your sense of self by being like you in some way.
I think the fear we have of strangers and strangeness is shaped by the way we conceive and practice our sense of self. We conceive the self as known, knowable, and we are trapped in our self-certainty. We may fear, jeopardize, understand, or exalt the other – but we never cease paranoiacly preserving a sense of our own distinctiveness. This separate “I” is mind’s illusion. Through our bodies – in need, in love, and in time – we become all that is other. We are exotic strangers and mysterious processes. And this world that is and becomes us is not an undifferentiated unity. It is an incredibly tough, sweet, and amazing place of intense diversity.
How can we open up some spaciousness in the way we experience the self? The little film I made for you explores the notion of self as other, stranger, lover – because I think our bodies teach us, if we pay attention. Wisdom resides in the strange, pulsing landscape of the skin.
I hope that you live with a more open self than I can live. I hope that you stay alive with the possibility of wonder. And I pray that you embrace an identity and dwell in a community in which strangeness is celebrated and sought.
With love to you and your generation,
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