I just finished reading a book on Ai Wei Wei. It’s his autobiography which is more about who he is than a display of his artwork. But WHO he is = so impressive. Not only for the excruciating circumstances of his childhood years in Maoist China but also his recent term in jail. From living in a pit underground with his father, who was being over and over again publicly shamed for his poetry, he moves on the create art seen worldwide, only to be put in jail for being too outspoken for the Chinese government’s comfort. But once in jail, he remains himself. His directness and honesty with the individuals who have to deal with him day and and day out – even in those circumstances – it’s his humanity, that it appears to me, leads to his dismissal. Person to person. The human spirit.
His book, 1000 Years of Joy and Sorrow, ends with these words:
Self expression is central to human existence. Without the sound of human voices, without warmth and color in our lives, without attentive glances Earth is an insensate rock suspended in space.
Ai Wei Wei lives now in exile.
But then, who doesn’t on some tiny scale, relate to that feeling of exile, given the way COVID has affected us. Circumscribing “where we live” in a way that means we are not as free to choose to move about as we might want. That home gets defined for you, excluding perhaps areas that you roamed in some sense of home.
It’s not the same as the home Ai Wei Wei has lost.
But the sense of “less ease” – it’s there.
That might be why the book’s message seemed more powerful than ever for me. Through it all, when there is less sense of home as we know it, there is all the more reason to notice what is home. What does lend “warmth and color” to our lives. What and who we love. On this earth.