The only thing I remember about MTV’s “The Real World” is the confessional. It was when the masks and gloves came off. Just a face, one side of a story, a closet, and a camera. They were as honest as they could be, albeit thickly insulated with the fleece of fleeting youth. They were testing the limits of schadenfreude-based entertainment.

But whatever that was, it wasn’t vulnerable.

Assertive? Absolutely.

Transparent? Sure.

Productive? On some level.

But vulnerable? Only to the extent that we’ve come to misunderstand that word.

Vulnerability doesn’t treat Honesty and Courage as boxes to be checked off but rather fills them altogether. Being vulnerable means saying, “I know you are going to look at me differently, but perhaps I want you to."

It’s a beautiful word, worthy of headlines and click-throughs, but in practice it lacks the polish and immediate gratification we desire. It is the other side of brokenness and utterly invaluable in seeking wholeness. If art amounts to our attempts to reform time, space, and matter, then vulnerability is the pause. It’s the silence, the stillness, and the momentary solitude. It’s the unfurling of the fist-swinging haymakers at Death and into an open palm asking the question, “I am enough, right?"

"Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life." - Jonathan Safran Foer

But it’s also something else: Vulnerability is a petition for an audience. It is mic-checking your vocal chords and singing through the cracks. And it is the pause, silently begging for a curtain yet hoping to be surprised by a downpour of roses.

It’s all:

"I’m scared."

"I'm learning."

"The me you knew is no longer worth keeping up with, so I hope you bear with my new project of becoming."

"I’m more questions than faith. More struggle than grace. But for sure, more daring than ever."

"I’m ready to go this alone, but please stay beside me."

Vulnerability is about the “we.” The pause. The “It’s all out there now, so what are we going to do with it?" The space after the invitation. The RSVP. Répondez s'il vous plaît. It’s the literal plea for participation in whatever happens next. Vulnerability is the asking. And the waiting. And the hope that perhaps the quaking in our voice exposes more harmonics than faults.

"You Are My Sunshine when your disease doesn’t let up."

"Dad, I’m sorry I left without saying goodbye."

"What he did does not make you any less valuable."

"This is hella f------ hard. I don’t know how it’ll turn out."

"This is what I am made of."

Then the pause.

Then the hugs and whispers of "I know," and "This doesn't change a thing," and "We will find a way."

To see more from TWLOHA's Invitation and Response installation, go here.


Chad Moses has been part of the Music & Events team at To Write Love on Her Arms since 2008. When he’s not finding creative ways to collaborate with musicians, festivals, and entertainment companies, Chad speaks on behalf of TWLOHA in venues, on college campuses, and on the TWLOHA blog. If you’re looking for Chad, you will probably find him trying to pet the nearest dog.

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