The Outsider Comes In

I just moved to New York.

And on a rainy Brooklyn night, I went to the opera. Which is not something I do often.

I went because it was in a loft. With benches and beers and an orchestra out of the pit and next to the stage.

And at this production outside mainstream opera, I felt like an outsider.

During intermissions, everyone seemed to know everyone else. And they didn’t seem to need anyone else.

Anyone else like me.

So, I protected myself, my raw self behind my phone. As if that would save me from being exposed as not belonging.

In the 1970s, Professor Calvin Pryluck taught film production and media theory at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

And in 1976, the Professor published a piece in Journal of the University Film Association called “Ultimately, We are All Outsiders: The Ethics of Documentary Filmmaking.” A few pages into what became a seminal essay, Professor Pryluck wrote:

“Ultimately, we are all outsiders in the lives of others.”

It is as true for our lives as it is for documentary film. We are outsiders in the lives of others. And they are outsiders in ours.

But we are in this together.

Those moments at the opera – those moments where our outsiderness is nearly crushing – are never ours alone.

Those moments are shared with many outsiders feeling the same big feeling. In the same town, the same block, the same room.

And in those moments, our heart can expand a little.

Enough to remember that we belong in this vast world of outsiders.

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