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Rend/Render II

TIFF Notes Summary Part II

People who’ve never been homeless look for the silver lining. An article of faith, it’s existence is assumed. According to this line, homelessness holds a lesson for the individual. It’s not a well defined lesson, nor is it quantifiable. There’s a lot of talk of fortitude, stoic values, and wherewithal. Promoting this notion, typically, are polite men and women, middle-class and comfortable, people who’ve never gone hungry except by choice.

The don’t-lose-hope bromide of the housed is a broken conception of life. Originating in the axiom hardship mines beauty, it’s a flawed belief. Eventually, the thinking goes, a soul will emerge from a chrysalis of suffering and pain, transported, transformed, a thing of notable beauty. That is not how suffering affects most people. Austerity is pain. Excess does not build strength.

The public’s understanding of homelessness is a bundle of flaws. A disfigured preconception casts us all as a type, as a generic embodiment of sub-human life. What humanity we are granted is but a dim reflection of the public’s willingness to see us, and their need for affirmation. The homeless live in permanent dusk, a state of interruption, incomplete. This stasis, raw economic disadvantage, is the intersection of system failure and schadenfreude. We are adjudged less than equal to any and measured by an unequal standard.

Homelessness is an alien existence. It’s a terror. For the homeless, there is no hero’s journey model of redemption, and no reversal to propel us into resolution. Relegated to symbol and type, we are denied normal in all its forms. What option remains for us? How, when systems have failed so badly and communication is impossible, do you bridge these worlds?

Tell me, what are the boundaries of your existence, as you perceive them? What is a normal life? What is it you hope for, dream of? Any place on earth you’ll find the answer is very much the same. Love, family, friends. Purpose, meaning, a future. This way, life is made livable, the spirit is nourished, the world broadens to the limits of imagining. These commonplace ideas are what bring people together.

Metaphor, symbol, and imagery all work together to access and link the real and imagined. Language, in this, is powerful yet insufficient. Nevertheless… For some, the diamond serves as a useful metaphor. It’s true, a diamond’s beauty and value is the result of the application of time, pressure, and expertise. Yet, left buried, uncut, and never brought to its potential, a diamond has no value.

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