The diversity of the arts leads the way for greater social change…
PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS
Goodness knows, unity amidst diversity has been deteriorating in the United States and elsewhere, including among psychiatrist colleagues. For example, increased Jewish and Muslim conflicts among psychiatrists has been escalating in my psychiatric circles, to the extent of not being able to continue to work together regarding the Mideast war. I say Mideast because Iran and other countries in the area are clearly involved now.
Sometimes, besides the enjoyment of arts for arts’ sake, the great diversity of arts can recognize and suggest resolutions for social problems before other viewpoints and options occur. Just recall how the development of jazz in the United States spearheaded antiracism advances a century ago.
Perhaps similarly, the tapestry of arts today can be a model for reducing broader divisiveness. My wife and I experienced some live examples in a recent road trip.
Yo Yo Ma
Ma, a cellist who is arguably the greatest instrumentalist of our time, was interviewed by the PBS broadcaster Jeffrey Brown. He comes from Chinese ancestry. When asked what he likes best about touring, it was not the music, but meeting diverse individuals and learning from them. The same took place when he put together the Silk Road Ensemble of diverse musicians from all the countries around the Silk Road in Asia. Indicating the staying power of such a combination, he passed on the leadership to the Black American musician Rhiannon Giddens, who has been putting together a traveling program on the contributions of railroads to the development of America.
American Patchwork Quartet
A couple of days later, we saw the America Patchwork Quartet, a group devoted to reclaiming the immigrant south of American Roots Music. They do so both by the diverse composition of the group as well as the music they play. The group included a white male lead singer and guitarist from South Carolina, a Black male jazz drummer, a male bassist from Japan, and a violinist female from India who sang both in English and from the Indian Carnatic tradition. This music was seamless and sophisticated world music, unifying the diversity of the members. Give them a listen on any of the streaming platforms or an actual CD, especially the song “Shenandoah.” The audience was just as diverse. Speaking spiritually, my wife concluded that it was “like going to temple.”
Cabaret singing is traditionally dominated by white singers for a well-to-do white audience. Bianca Marroquin has changed that, as we witnessed. She was the first Mexican woman to headline a major Broadway show, that being “Chicago.” We saw her do a cabaret program, sung partially in Spanish, which seemed to balance the tension between performing and living everyday life itself.
Repairing with Kintsugi
Kintsugi is a Japanese traditional process and method for repairing broken pottery with golden lacquer. Often, the Kintsugi seems to improve the beauty of the vessel. In the Cornell Art Museum in Delray, there was an installation titled “Kintsugi: The Art of Healing.” It used a sculpture of a broken heart from the Burning Man Festival of 2022. This rotating heart had cracks filled with golden glue, and was dedicated to a friend who died and to all of us who were even a bit broken from the pandemic.
Psychiatry and the Arts
The therapeutic arts have relatively disappeared from psychiatric settings due to business financial priorities. Nevertheless, their therapeutic potential remains.
The ethical cracks in our collegial relationships need to be filled with our own Kintsugi. I would think that the Kintsugi of psychological brokenness is the emotional gold of compassion and emphatic glue, coupled with therapeutic expertise to achieve repair and resilience.
Some might criticize these multicultural events as being inappropriate cultural appropriation, but I think that these are culturally appropriate appreciations. I hope you do, too.
Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry and is now in retirement and retirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.