James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.

thoughts + feelings

09: Heart and Humanity

Vulnerability is hard. Vulnerability is emotional. Vulnerability sucks. We've all been there, so hearing about your tales in vulnerability was inspiring and enlightening. Seriously, your words were powerful enough to the point where any additional commentary would only water down what you shared. So I'm going to present the responses from last week's question below to get your week started on the right foot.

Liz Kalloch blew my mind with her tales in vulnerability and what it means to her, which I'm sure rings a bell with a few of us.

“I think being vulnerable is difficult for a couple of reasons: to be vulnerable we have to lower the shields most of us have spent a good part of our lives putting in place; being vulnerable can just be plain hard, and most of us spend a good amount of our lives calculating our way around difficult; and lastly, being vulnerable can sometimes open us up for criticism, ridicule and fear. 

Opening up and telling the truth can be difficult and painful and time-consuming. Vulnerability can leave us open and potentially alone. 

Being vulnerable is being open. Being vulnerable is being real and true. Being vulnerable is an act of trust. I think somewhere along the line most of us got taught by a bad experience that vulnerability is to be avoided, and so we learn to hide our “shameful” secrets, we don’t tell a loved one a secret dream, we don’t risk being our true selves with the people in our lives who mean the most to us. 

I think it’s easy to be vulnerable on line because it flashes past in a few minutes, and is done. Telling our secrets or our hopes or our fears to a stranger (or strangers) is not nearly as scary as telling those same things to someone who might not like us, might now respect us, might not be able to hear, might reject us after we’ve been vulnerable.

That said: I always try for vulnerable because it’s my truest connection to my own heart and my own humanity. I don’t always succeed, but I always try.”

Building upon the "connection of the heart", Cher Vincent shared with me about some vulnerabilities on her mind as of lately.

"I experienced even greater vulnerability this weekend, when I saw you at Soul City Chicago. It had been over a year since I had been in a church setting, but it was the first time since my childhood that I was touched by something that I had read in the “good book”. I felt vulnerability about how I tend to preach about how the South Side of Chicago, my home, needs a larger help, bigger than myself. But I tend overlook my own capabilities in that regard. Even at the Dacha, I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t known of something so beneficial to my community, that is literal walking distance to my parent’s home. It encouraged me to want to contribute, even if it only meant the encouragement was growing within me. 

I think the act of vulnerability isn’t necessarily about sharing a secret, or what could even be called a secret, but it’s something that makes that takes you out of your comfort zone. I think my true moment of vulnerability was realizing my comfort zone isn’t very large at all."

Lastly, Jayson Shenk shared his own feelings on vulnerability and the difficulty of having "unpopular" opinions in the very opinionated field of art and design:

"...My basic model of people is that you never know how judgmental they are – and I always worry about that. So when I fire something off into twitter I always think of it as the potential for having the ripples in the pond effect. Is this going to cost me an opportunity somewhere down the line? – That kind of thing. Especially since I’ve been more open about some of my thoughts on the profession that aren’t really the popular way of looking at things.

Honestly, I was more vulnerable in the past as a general thing and don’t really think it was a good way to be. I’m more selective about who I open up to about what these days and about what. 

Designers and artists are always so constantly vulnerable though, so much of the fiber of our beings is tied into what we do. Even if something is work for pay that doesn’t have a whole lot of personal meaning, your fundamental problem-solving approach is tied just as deep. We’ve put ourselves in a position where we’re constantly on trial for what we make; but also like you say, there is a constant and ongoing effort to quantify work in this business too."

Owning up to our actions is vulnerability. Lowering our shields is vulnerability. Trying something new is vulnerability. Bearing humanity is vulnerability. Backing up your opinions is vulnerability. It's easier to harden up and hide yourself from hurt, but what will it take to open up and bare your true self this week? Give it a try.

Thanks for reading and see you next week,

-James

What did I find interesting this week?

1) The 7 Values That Drive IDEO: A nicely illustrated slideshow that shows behind the curtain of how IDEO builds their creative culture. I especially enjoyed "Talk Less, Do More".

2) In The Name of Love: One of my favorite articles so far of this year. A discussion on why the popular "Do What You Love" mantra is incredibly flawed, devaluing, and problematic.

3) Why Working More Than 40 Hours A Week Is Useless: "Long hours, in other, words are often more about proving something to ourselves than actually getting stuff done."

4) 28 Reasons to Hug A Black Guy: Still singing this ridiculously catchy song from SNL in honor of Black History Month.

5) DuSable to Obama, Chicago's African American Legacy on PBS: You can stream this documentary for free on PBS' website. An exploration on Chicago's Black community from 1779 to present day.

James T. Green