Art is an Obligation


Last night I attended Mizel Museum‘s pre-Passover concert “Unbounded: Breaking the Chains of Modern Slavery.” It was a moving and unsettling evening of music and narrative created by Colorado artists Sheldon Sands and Marta Burton. In it, they traced the slavery of the Jewish and African American communities as well as the 27 million (!!!) people who are enslaved at this moment in our own cities, countries (yes, in America too) and around the world.

Throughout the concert, I kept thinking about this quote by Seth Godin from his book Tribes:

Not too far from us, a few blocks away, there are kids without enough to eat and without parents who care. A little farther away, hours by plane, are people unable to reach their goals because they live in a community that just doesn’t have the infrastructure to support them. A bit farther away are people being brutally persecuted by their governments. And the world is filled with people who can’t go to high school, never mind college, and who certainly can’t spend their time focused on whether or not they get a good parking space at work.

And so, the obligation: don’t settle.

To have all these advantages, all this momentum, all these opportunities and then settle for mediocre and then defend the status quo and then worry about corporate politics – what a waste.

Flynn Berry wrote that you should never use the word “opportunity.” It’s not an opportunity, it’s an obligation.

I don’t think we have any choice. I think we have an obligation to change the rules, to raise the bar, to play a different game, and to play it better than anyone has any right to believe is possible.

If you are lucky enough to be in a position to help, change, offer comfort, share, then it is not an opportunity. It is an obligation.

If you are looking to help join the effort to end slavery, there are many organizations doing this good work. Here’s a good place to start.

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