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Lions Roar : July 2014
Meditations on Violence Director Martin Scorsese When I did Mean Streets I wanted to show what I thought we lived like, the Italian-Americans on the Lower East Side. Violence is a very serious thing, and when it’s committed in that society, there are repercussions. A line is crossed. I’d been around some of it, and the shock was so strong that when I deal with stories where violence is an important part, I try not to show it in a pretty way, though maybe I’ve been guilty of that a couple of times—it’s been thirty years. Taxi Driver is about being young and disaffected. Paul Schrader wrote it and he had those feelings in him. I did too, and so did Robert De Niro. The film was something we thought we had to do because we felt it was true. We tried not to make the violence in it pretty in any way, because it’s not pretty. Violence is not in slow motion with people flying in the frame and flipping up in the air and turning around. It’s not a video game. It’s very real and ugly. Looking back to the Gulf War in ’91, when we were allowed to see smart bombs in black-and-white video, I think a cleansing was beginning. It was distancing us from the extraordinary violence that was occurring. The issue is to deal with what part of us is violent. That’s some- thing not to be shied away from in the work. There’s a kind of excitement in violence, and that’s part of being human. One has to deal with that. You can’t deny it. Deny it and it’s going to explode! Maybe I’m just an old man talking about younger people mak- ing video games where violence becomes a game. But I am con- cerned about the nature in which violence is now being shown, particularly in the news. It’s all cleansed. It’s all distanced. We don’t feel a thing—we’re not meant to. You’re a Goddess Artist Josh Melnick & Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg Sharon Salzberg: One makes oneself vulnerable through cre- ation. Art can come from such a personal place, and yet it’s often such a public expression. As an artist, can you have a sense of happiness despite the way people receive your work? Josh Melnick: I have happiness if the intention of the work is aligned with my moral and ethical beliefs. It isn’t about making something for the marketplace or because it’s what people expect. I can’t say how many projects I’ve started and stopped because I thought they were for the right reason but they actually weren’t. Sharon Salzberg: We like people to like us but I’m struck over and over again by how outside of our control that is. My most recent experience of this was in Washington, D.C., where I went to hear the speech by Congressman Tim Ryan about his book, A Mindful Nation. I was sitting in the auditorium and I saw a woman walking around with one of my books. Then she spot- ted me and came over. She knelt down in front of me to have me sign the book, which I was very happy to do. Then she said, “You’re a goddess.” So I felt rather delighted at that! But not ten seconds later, Ryan’s communications director came over with a journalist and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone less interested in meeting me. The communication’s director said, “This is Sha- ron Salzberg,” and the journalist looked completely bored. The communications director asked, “Have you ever heard of her?” and he said, “Nah.” Of course I liked the woman’s comment rather more than the journalist’s, but how deeply do we take these things to heart? Do they define us? Do they ruin our happiness? Josh Melnick: I think you’re a goddess. Sharon Salzberg: Thank you! ♦ Permanent installation of a Tibetan shrine room.