Show-Up

The Unplugging

Show-up, people. Just fucking-show-up.

Tonight, Yoo-Mi and I were privileged to attend a performance of Yvette Nolan’s smart, gripping new work, The Unplugging, at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Revue Stage. The play, set in post-apocalyptic Canada, explores the emotional need for community, the compulsion to generosity, and the go-to sustainability of traditional ways of living – and the dangerous ways in which these virtues are challenged by the venality of a culture that has convinced itself that survival is a zero-sum game. The dialogue is tight, the production simple, direct, and effective, and the acting (by Jenn Griffin, Margo Kane, and Anton Lipovetsky) stunningly superb. By all rights, the 198-seat theater should have been packed.

Instead, there were twenty of us comprising the audience.

No one showed-up. This is a woefully common occurrence.

We constantly decry the lack of community cohesion, particularly here in Vancouver. And with good cause. A recent survey by the Vancouver Foundation found an appalling lack of meaningful human-to-human interaction in a city that prides itself on progressiveness, hipness, and “livability”. A recent discussion forum on this state-of-affairs at Simon Fraser University’s Public Square was tellingly titled, “Together Alone”. And yet we do nothing to help ourselves. Sadder still, we do not rouse ourselves from our collective stupor long enough to lend our support for the spirited work of those who are trying to build community, culture, and public good.

So, please, start showing-up.

Do it for yourselves. But more importantly, do it to support the increasingly rare members of your community who put themselves on-the-line to make your world a brighter, happier, more interesting place.

Whether you avail yourself of the pleasures of live theater, live music, public lectures, literary events, and the myriad other forms of artistic and intellectual activity taking place in your town, you are nonetheless a beneficiary of the creative talent and hard work of those who make these events happen. They contribute to the overall vitality of the place where you live. The cost of attendance is usually minimal, and often nothing-at-all. Sure, your financial commitment to the cultural vibrancy of your city is admittedly important; but the ethical issue is far more significant. You may not believe you have the skills or energy to create beauty in your community (a certain error and another problem altogether), but it is a pernicious, lazy, passive selfishness to fail to show-up to applaud those who do.

Woody Allen famously said, “Eighty percent of life is just showing up.” But these days, eighty percent of life seems to be passing most people by. And they are doing more than stultifying their own lives; they are failing to contribute in even a minimally participatory way to the richness of their communities.

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5 Responses to “Show-Up”


  1. 1 Deepa 4 November 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Telling that there’s hardly a response to this one? We’re each guilty, is one thing. Showing up to community events was never any small feat, all the more with young kids and deadlines to meet each week. That’s not an excuse, but a statement about how much is wrong with a life that keeps us from the civic interactions that really should be the focus of life itself. I have no solutions to offer there (except maybe “don’t have kids”?? ha, and too late anyway). But your post also calls to mind the struggles we had with getting folks to show up, for less amazing events, no doubt, but important ones in their own way–talks, lectures, seminars, performances. The best events had captive audiences: students who had to be there anyway, or who were greased (extra credit) to attend. The only tools we had. Statement #2 about what was wrong. The point being in a way that, while you have my willing & sympathetic (is that the word?) ear, it goes a lot, lot farther than just asking folks to show up.

    • 2 mbjesq 7 November 2012 at 3:28 am

      Folks stopped showing-up here a long time ago. Of course, if I showed-up here more — writing more frequently and more interestingly — perhaps others would to. Alas, the death of a once-popular blog.

      MBJ

  2. 4 Amrita 26 November 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Mark,

    Started reading your blog again recently. Some excellent posts including this one.

    Yes, even though more people like to live in cities where there is so much live and performing arts and talks, community meetings and fairs, often at minimal costs, they show up less at any of these. The excuse often is… city life is too busy :) Also, not showing up is sometimes considered fashionable as it is a sign of how ‘busy’ one’s life is.

    Yeah, wish I don’t lose my ability to show up. There are too many interesting things happening around!

    Hope all is well.
    smiles and sunshine, Amrita.

  3. 5 rb 13 June 2013 at 8:46 am

    MBJ:

    Coincidentally, I’ve been working on a draft of a commencement address I’ll be delivering on Saturday which carried a similar theme. This excerpt got edited out, but I’m sharing it here for its resonant theme.

    ====
    In high school, I heard a Woody Allen quote that said, “Eighty percent of life is about showing up” which I thought to be a very banal, and slightly irritating statement, as if you could score 80 out of 100 points just through perfect attendance. A few years later, perhaps in defiance of this, I failed to attend a significant majority of my lectures at UCLA, and still managed a B+ or better in most classes, thereby proving you could score the equivalent of more than 80 out of 100 points by NOT showing up. I do not recommend replicating this experiment in your own upcoming college years, not just because its reckless and a shallow experiment in what it means to be present, but because I’ve since concluded that in fact 100% of life is about showing up and being present, by which I mean paying very close attention to the totality of your experience and action. The art of deeply paying attention is the new literacy, and without it, you’ll miss the prose and the poetry of both choice and joy in life.
    ===

    Loved reading your fun take on the Forest Call!


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