Friday is traditionally art day at campari&sofa. And today is different but no different. When I saw this spokenword piece by Canadian poet, author and musician Shane Koyczan I knew this was today’s art.
Shane’s poem “To This Day” …’for ‘the bullied and beautiful’ stayed on my mind for days. It was both funny and sad. Irreverent and gut wrenchingly true. Fragments would surface as I sat in traffic, stretched on my mat, or cooked. The fact that I remembered so much so clearly is a testament to his brilliant, real writing – who could forget a line like: “I’ve been shot down so many times I get altitude sickness just from standing up for myself.”
Bullying doesn’t only happen at school. It happens in the workplace, in families, in churches, in groups of a hundred or of two. Whether in actions or in words: bullying echoes throughout our lives – changing the way we perceive ourself and others. That old saw: “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”, is nonsense – as Shane says: “Don’t tell me that [broken heartstrings] hurt less than a broken bone, that an ingrown life is something surgeons can cut away, that there’s no way for it to metastasize — it does.”
We’ve all seen that cancer spread. And sometimes we’ve let it happen rather than get in the way. Shane remembers one of those moments:
“When I was 14, I was asked to seriously consider a career path.
I said, “I’d like to be a writer.”
And they said, “Choose something realistic.”
So I said, “Professional wrestler.”
And they said, “Don’t be stupid.”
See, they asked me what I wanted to be, then told me what not to be.”
How often do we step on other people’s dreams? Especially kids?
When he finds himself becoming a bully – the poet resolves “I will love myself despite the ease with which I lean toward the opposite.” And, ultimately becomes the writer he was told he could never be.
To create this piece, Shane invited artists from all around the world to contribute 20-second segments of animation, based around the words. His crowd-sourcing call resulted in contributions by 80 animators, which Koyczan posted on YouTube on February 19, 2012. By the end of the month 6-million people had watched and listened to his poem.
If you do anything this weekend – watch “To This Day”. In this piece – done for TED, Shane gives his poem a glorious reading – complete with backstory and live violin accompaniment by Hannah Epperson. Afterwards, treat yourself to something delicious for being one of the “graduating members from the class of We Made It”.
And for anyone who might feel they are not quite there yet – I want to leave you with one last piece of Shane’s warm, funny, lived-it instruction: “If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, get a better mirror.”
(Image and the full text of the “To This Day can be found at: Shane Koyczan)