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Hockey, Art & the Vancouver Riots: Was it us? Was it the sport? And is there any chance it won’t happen again?

This weekend’s ‘Celebration of Light’ fireworks competition marked Vancouver’s biggest outdoor party since Game 7. Like the leaders of Oslo, Vancouver believed that continuing with annual outdoor events after catastrophe was worth the investment of trust in residents. Free societies should continue as free societies. Limiting freedom based on isolated events is counter-productive.

Not that Vancouver’s June 15th is truly comparable to Norway’s July 22nd.

June 15th, we did to ourselves. July 22nd was inflicted by a seriously disturbed individual.

The only commonality, really, is that incredibly sick feeling deep down inside.

Confession time, Vancouver: Were any of you holding your breath in the last 48 hours? Did you wonder if gut-wrenching images of our city would once again splatter the global media?

Yeah, me neither.

Now, if you were, I’m curious: why? Do you believe us a pack of senseless morons, ready for destruction at the first opportunity? Do you believe us to have such poor memories that the results of June 15th are already washed from our minds?

Many of my non-Vancouverite friends have asked me why the riots happened. That’s not really an issue I want to touch with a twenty-foot, aluminum-plated pole, sound-proof pole. Paid professionals will soon answer that question, and until they do, I’d like to keep my comments on ‘why’ to myself.

But I never believed, deep down, that it was ‘just us.’

Sure, our reputation is still tarnished. I talked with a friend last night who said she felt sheepish admitting her home city while talking with the locals on her vacation. Their response? “Oh. Vancouver. You take your hockey very seriously.”

Well, I guess that’s true.

But here’s my question: is that bad?

Several June-15th related comments have intrigued me.  One has recently protruded: the implication that, had our residents been more invested in arts than sports, the riots would never have happened. Sports increase emotional contagion. Arts decrease irrational behavior.

And, as Steven Stosny says, ’emotions are more contagious than any known virus.’

I have long found the arts to be soothing for my soul. I can not count the number of times I find myself at my piano, behind my guitar, or, sitting here writing, when my spirit feels crushed, depressed, or severely frustrated. The cathartic release brings a sense of peace afterwards. I am less irritated by my surroundings, more compassionate.

And I have yet to meet one person face-to-face who is actually proud of what happened in our city following Game 7. I have to believe that the majority, if not all, of our city, is willing to do whatever it takes that it doesn’t happen again. I certainly am. And if more attention to the arts would help us, that’s something I’m willing to pursue.

In other words, if its not ‘just us,’ that led to the riot, is it our past times?

Without delving into ridiculously cold scientific jargon or syrupy-sweet artsy-fartsy-ness, I asked the internet this question, and my extremely-talented pianist friend pointed me towards an interesting community called “Hill Strategies.”

According to Hill Strategies, arts education produces a host of emotionally intelligent traits:

– increased confidence;

– fewer emotional problems;

– better conflict-resolution skills;

– improved problem-solving skills;

– increased school abilities;

– increased social skills; and

– increased motivation to learn.

Impressive statistics. Persuasive enough to ask the question: are arts a healthier past-time than sports?

I’m not sure how to answer that. If you are, feel free to enlighten us. All I know is I feel a burst of meanness coming on, and I need to hang with Jillian Michaels and my hand weights for awhile.

See, for me, exercise endorphins are often far more anxiety-purging than the serotonin brain bath I receive from playing Clair de Lune.   So maybe its not that arts are healthier than sports. After all, could we not claim each of those above-listed effects of arts education for sports as well?

Perhaps, but then we need to make an important distinction.

I know some arts and music fans who have behaved just as obnoxiously as sports fans. Artists are notoriously moody, irritable creatures. We (yes, I’m one of them) often think our tastes are the best. We are quick to judge those who like things we don’t. We can be critical, finger-pointing, anal-retentive human beings.

Not always the healthiest behaviours, really. What happened to all that emotional intelligence I mentioned before?

But perhaps we should consider the benefits listed above apply to arts and sports participants, not their spectators.

Is that the problem, then? Should we only play sports and not watch it? Should we only draw and paint and write our own artistic creation, and not appreciate another?

Or, is it just that as spectators we have an inappropriate distance between ourselves and the thing we spectate? By watching someone else do something, are we somehow both too close and too far away from the thing we enjoy?

Some blame the riots on our over-identification with our hockey team. I’ve written about that before here. But if the healthiest benefits of our past times come when we fully participate, limiting our engagement may be exactly the opposite of what we need to do.

And, had we been more engaged with art than sport, maybe we would have rioted over that instead.

Arts spectators have rioted before. Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring caused quite a stir when it debuted in Paris in 1913. Wikipedia observes that the ballet’s “intensely rhythmic score and primitive scenario and choreography shocked the audience that was accustomed to the elegant conventions of classical ballet.” Indeed, Paris was not only shocked at the progressive content and style, they were deeply offended.  Thus began the most famous classical music riot to date.

Hmm. They rioted because they were offended.

Interesting.

What if that is our problem? What if all the destruction of six weeks ago – images that still lurk in my brain’s recesses – started because we were offended?

It’s possible. Everything about that night felt not right. Unfair, even. Shocking, to a city and a team that (gulp) expected to win.

Perhaps our issue, then, isn’t sports. Maybe, its getting offended.

I cringe inside. I’m not exactly the role model for handling offense with grace. But I want to be better. A lot of inappropriate, terrible things originate in offense. Again, we need only to look at Norway to see just how terrible. And, we need only look at any of our social media investments to see how inappropriate we can be when offended.

I’m not sure how to get better, exactly. But I know that part of it is starting to get behind the eyes of the person who offends. Perhaps there is some detail of his perspective, some narrative of her history, that invites me to compassion. Perhaps there is some merit to their perspective; to his likes or her dislikes.

And there is the great challenge: to learn to embrace those who think differently from us. If you’re interested, I urge you to pick something you never thought you’d like, something a friend or acquaintance enjoys, even something you might judge them for liking, and figure out if there’s anything there you find appealing. This isn’t about peer pressure. Peer pressure urges us to like something so we will fit in. Choosing to invest in a loved one’s hobby urges us to like something so others will fit in.

Helping others fit in. Hmm. Kind of the definition of a good host, eh, Vancouver?  We’ve done it before. We can do it again.

Your thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. I can’t think of anyone who really takes offense well, but most of us handle it better than the riots displayed. We were probably a little ahead of ourselves, being so confident that it was our year, but I guess we just expect things to at least be fair. Emotions lash out when we feel cheated.

    Oh, and by the way, you are not nearly as bad as some artist-types. A bit persnickety, perhaps, but not usually too overboard 😉

    August 3, 2011

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