Below is a quote that has traveled with me from closet doors, to bedroom mirrors, to bulletin boards for almost 20 years. It has guided my Work and my Life.
“There is a river that everyone has to cross at some point in their life. And that river is the one with Fear running through it.” – Ronnie Lott (HOF Football Player)
This river of fear is at the Heart of The Human Condition. The paralytic or reactive responses to fear are, in my opinion, the two most destructive forces in our lives. Every significant moment in a life, positive or negative, can be traced to the decision that is made when we stand on the bank of that river of Fear. Some of us are paralyzed by this feeling and do nothing, others strike out as a Cobra, angrily, reactively, in justified irrationality. But there is a third group…a group often thought of as Fearless. But the idea that someone could be fearless is simply preposterous. Fear is never absent. Something else is present. Something that acts as a bridge by which we may cross that river. A certain bravery, courage and determination – Valiance.
Definition of VALIANT
1: possessing or acting with bravery or boldness :courageous
2 : marked by, exhibiting, or carried out with courage or determination
“The coward dies a thousand deaths. The Valiant die but once”. – Shakespeare
It is the coward who struggles violently, who wails at the sky and shakes a fist, who’s heart is full of regret for taking no action…or who’s actions only result in destruction and pain. The Valiant faces a challenge with a deep breathe, a focused mind and a full heart. The Valiant, has no regret, takes action that results in creation, redemption and love…A life lived Valiantly, is a life lived peacefully.
The challenge I set before us today, as Artists, is to inspire more people to live life Valiantly. By effectively telling the stories of people who make the choice to face their Fear and cross the River; we can inspire more people to pursue the dream they’ve cast aside, or to leave the painful abusive relationship of 20 years or to accept religious, political or social differences that are no doubt, the root of our greatest collective pain. We can change the world.
Arthur Miller once said of Harold Clurman, – “Harold Clurman believed that through great plays, we could stop fighting”. He was right. Through great plays we can inspire change in the hearts of our audience and impact society at large. But to do it, to inspire people to let go of their prejudice, to instill someone with the strength and faith they need to move on to the life they deserve, we must cross that river ourselves. We must let go of our own ego’s, find inspiration in the pain from our past, let go of our preconceived notions with regard to what we “can do”, what we are “comfortable with” and even what our audience is “ready for” or “can relate to”. We must free ourselves from the limitations of these self imposed prisons. We must build a bridge, a bridge with a frame fashioned from Courage, riveted together by Boldness and paved with slats of Bravery held firmly in place by bolts of Determination. From there our aim is clear.
Cross the River… and create Valiant works of Art.