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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 4:49 am | Fair 42º


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.

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