Saturday, June 23 , 2018, 2:44 pm | Overcast with Haze 66º

 
 
 

Tim Durnin: You Are Not Alone — The PostSecret Project

Anonymous art movement connects us with humanity — and one another

Let me begin with a caveat. My topic this week references material that some will find offensive. In fact, I find some of the material referenced (but not addressed in the column) offensive. However, the vast majority of it is not. Most of the material is touching, thought-provoking and evocative. That is why I share it with readers here.

My first exposure to the PostSecret Project came shortly after the first book, Post Secret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives, was published in 2005. It became my wife’s and my gift of choice for family and friends.

It started as a simple art project. Using a 4-inch-by-6-inch postcard as a canvas, folks were invited to share their secrets anonymously. From these simple and elegant origins, a movement emerged.

The secrets range from banal to inspired, each secret a work of art in its own right. The secrets provide a unique glimpse into the funny, outrageous, sometimes troubling and tragic, furtive lives we lead.

It’s difficult not to be moved and changed by the secrets revealed within the pages of these books. Here are two examples.

A 1950s-era black-and-white photograph shows a couple in a convertible. The woman is waving goodbye over her shoulder. Individual words have been cut out and pasted to the picture. “My mom chose my stepdad over me.”

In another, a faded picture of a granddaughter with her grandmother bares the inscription, “When I wear her sweaters I imagine she’s hugging me.”

The PostSecret Project now includes five books, exhibits and a speaking tour by the founder. It also includes a Web site where new secrets are posted each week. I confess a mild addiction here.

If there is one overarching theme to the project, it is that we are not alone. It is difficult to read the secrets and not find our own lives reflected back at us. There is, for me, great comfort in this.

I have tested my defenses as revealed in a postcard of a weathered brick wall posted with the message, “Sometimes we put up walls. Not to keep people out but to see who cares enough to knock them down.”

A collection from the PostSecret Project.

Anyone who has struggled with addiction, or knows someone who has as I have, can’t help but connect with this postcard. The symbols ...—-... boldly brand a close-up of a spilled bottle of prescription medication.

On one secret postcard, a cartoon of Superman has the “S” replaced with “DAD” and a crudely drawn, smiling, bespectacled face covers the original. It reads, “When I was a little girl my dad was my hero. I’m 26 now. He still is.” I want to be that kind of father.

Spending just a few minutes with one of the PostSecret books, it becomes evident how fragile and beautiful and complex our lives can be. The project’s greatest success, in my opinion, is that an encounter with the project makes us more human, it connects us to our humanity and to each other.

I think it appropriate to close with a quote from the founder and curator of the PostSecret Project, Frank Warren. “Every single person has a secret that would break your heart. If we could just remember this, I think there would be a lot more tolerance and compassion in the world.”

Amen, Frank. Amen.

— Tim Durnin is a father, husband and writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for ideas, comments, discussion and criticism.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >