Wednesday, December 10

Wendy and Lucy

I don't think I ever experienced with more frequency the immediacy of helping a stranger than when I lived in New York. Not in the sense of giving directions to a tourist or dropping a dime in a bum's cup, but in the sense of being face to face with a person in a situation that probably defied some city ordinance or park rule or code of conduct and forced to choose whether to engage with them or stay safely in my own life. I guess I stopped thinking twice about helping someone after that, mostly because I thought that in a place with such a large population, so many people lived under the radar or fell beneath the cracks. What happens to a person when they are not in a community? How do we form a sense of community with the individuals we share physical, real space with?
It seems a much more curious dilemma now that friendships are mediated through social networks like Facebook and micro-updated with applications like Twitter. Our closest friends are virtually present while the physically present are our nearest strangers. The difference between living the real versus "knowing" the virtual becomes very apparent. Which makes it odd to consider this idea through safely watching a film... Kelly Reichardt's latest, "Wendy and Lucy," follows a young woman as she makes her way to Alaska in what may be a futile attempt to find work at a cannery. The whole premise could not be more relevant in a time when the population is feeling the effects of downsizing and "re-organization" and are faced with the task of building new communities and sometimes starting over in other geographic locations. What happens when you don't have your trusted neighbor in the adjoining apartment to ask for help, or need transportation home and your bus doesn't come, or are not sure if you are safe in the neighborhood you are walking through? I read a good review of the film on the New York Times' website citing this circumstance as "the nature of solidarity in a culture of individualism." More here.

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