Ambiguity as An Opportunity

(Guest blogger Marcela Davison Aviles, Classic Class XXII)

The year I completed the ALF Senior Fellows program (Class XXII) my Mother died. That year, the ambiguity which was Mom’s chronic illness resolved at a picnic, when she sat too hard on a park bench and broke bones too brittle to withstand the aneurysm which ultimately delivered her to the other side. Death was a surprise, but intentional visitor. I thought she would last forever. I was wrong.

Or was I?

After Mom died, ambiguity became my new best friend. Why lean in when you can linger? Hesitation and active parsing of circumstance gave me room to remember the analog that was my relationship with Mom. The hesitation piece – that’s what I gained from ALF. And, when you stop and parse the flowers – memory and recollection seems core to our common humanity. Everything – from business planning to community activism to consumer advertising to romance to food to politics to education – is about remembering. Everyone yearns for something; it’s our recollection of what we once had or think we need or thought we lost and need to reclaim.

“À la recherche du temps perdu” – isn’t Proust’s quest really the ALF seven minute pitch? And if, in words of Proust, life’s voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes, how shall we answer David Byrne? How did I get here?

“Here” is where I work – a project-based practice where creativity questions complacency and replaces it with storytelling. One of my current projects is an advisory gig with another ALF fellow, Darla Anderson, who’s a senior producer at Pixar. We found each other through the ALF network and a mutual goal to illuminate the recollection of heritage. One of Pixar’s upcoming movies is a film set during Mexico’s Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) when families gather to remember the people in our lives we thought would last forever. My role is one part cultural consultant, one part community connector and one part dramaturge to, in words of Octavio Paz, “the advent of the unusual, where logic occurs in an enchanted world.”

So the network worked, in a literal sense. Introductions were made, mutual interests revealed, a project commenced. And the network worked in the “ALF-sense,” uniting a Hollywood producer with a Mexican cultural maven at exactly the right moment to ask the question: does the memory of love last forever?