The Unreasonable Investment

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

posted by Rusty Rueff, A.C.T. Trustee

In these trying and turbulent financial days, decisions are being made about where one places one’s financial bets. Do we hang in the market, or do we just retreat and bury Mason jars of money in our backyards? My wife, Patti, and I have been having lots of discussions about this broadly, and personally, as we watch the nonprofit organizations that we support suffer under the pull-back of donations due to the economy and the nearly one billion dollars that have been donated for the presidential election. We are the recipients of many requests for donations, and we are doing our best to dig deep, and in some cases double down from prior year donations, to ensure that the nonprofit organizations that we care about do not implode during this difficult time. Some would say that we are being foolish in continuing to fund the arts at the same level or greater than the past. To many, these look like unreasonable investments. But as the writer and playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “Reasonable men adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable men attempt to adapt the world to themselves. That’s why all progress depends on unreasonable men.”

I am a trustee of A.C.T. because, first and foremost, I love live theater. When once asked if I could spend a day any way I wanted, I said that I would take in an afternoon baseball game and a great theater performance in the evening. It’s just part of me and what I love. But, for the rest of society as a whole, the theater and visual and performing arts are the fabrics that bring soul and essence to our everyday lives. Without them we risk becoming one-dimensional and flat in our humanity. If we are not stimulated to think, laugh, cry, and explore the lives of others by placing ourselves in the situations and characters that live theater provides, then we can find ourselves living out our own lives without reference points or exploration into what we could truly be.

After seeing Tom Stoppard’s Rock ’n’ Roll at A.C.T., I kept asking myself (and others who had seen the show), Why did Jan stay in Czechoslovakia through the entire period of oppression, when with the smarts, energy, and resources that he could have mustered, he could have stolen out of the country and defected? My conclusion was that he loved the fight for the cause more than he loved freedom and more than he loved Esme and what she represented for him in England. It seemed unreasonable, but no more unreasonable than what anyone might want to do who wants to see progress. When we have things we love, like live theater, even the most unreasonable things we do can become reasonable for the cause of progress.
 
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