I hardly ever write on these topics that are spun out right after 8 am EST.
I found today’s question of what I would do if I won a billion dollars interesting because just the other day, I spent money on lottery tickets and I didn’t win a dime, much less a dollar or 2,500 a week for life or – oh, ridiculous! – a billion dollars.
Yesterday on the way home from work, I considered the odds of spending 100.00 on 1 dollar scratch-offs and winning absolutely nothing.
I, of all people, could probably pull that off.
A friend of mine offered a word the other day for the sort of person who defies statistical odds. I don’t remember the word, but I am that sort of person.
It would take a long time to buy 100 one dollar lottery tickets. I think they have to scan them in individually. Perhaps the machine can tell the barcodes included in the purchase from the number of tickets purchased, so each ticket need not be individually scanned.
I’ll never win a billion dollars in the lottery.
Regardless, here’s a fake interview with Terry Gross about how I spent the money that I’ll never win:
TG: “Welcome to Fresh Air! We’re talking today with eccentric philanthropist and artist-activist Faith Rhyne, who recently won an Academy Award for her direction of the documentary film Crazy Town. Welcome, Faith.”
Me: “Thanks, Terry. It’s a pleasure to be here.”
TG: “So, this film started a long time ago?”
Me: “Yeah, it was an idea I had on the way to work one day. I was thinking about how different the town I live in would be if it were run by so-called mad people.”
TG: “You’re very public about your history with psychiatric diagnosis and some people say that your work has helped to re-define the way we think about mental health. In your book, I Want to Live in Crazy Town, which came out last year, you tell the story of the day you won what you call the Mega Jackpot. Tell us a little about that moment.”
Me: “Well, you know that I didn’t really win the lottery. That I got the money to make Crazy Town real from an anonymous donor. I don’t talk a lot about what was happening right before I got that first email. It was definitely one of those mornings though, when it was feeling a little hard to know what to do next. I spent a solid two decades of my life not knowing what to do next, so it wasn’t – you know – a weird thing.”
(light, radio friendly laughter)
Me: “For years, I’d gotten all sorts of big and really wonderful ideas. A fundraiser for women’s reproductive care that involved the making of hundreds of fiber art placentas, a letter answering service for fan mail sent by people convinced that their favorite indie rock musician is part of a plot to save the world, about a dozen different ways to fix the economy and resolve the climate crisis…”
TG: “In your acceptance speech, you talked some about madness and brilliance…”
Me: “Yeah, I didn’t really mention the reality of how it feels to have so many good ideas and to not be able to do any of them.”
Me: “I think I spent a lot of time trying to get over good ideas, but Crazy Town was definitely one that stuck with me.”
TG: “So, what happened?”
Me: “Well, I shared the idea. It was pretty absurd actually, the way it went down. I do this thing – you know – the emailing myself and I was sitting around one morning waiting for my kids to come over and there was this WordPress Daily Prompt on if I won a billion dollars, what would I use the money on.”
Me: “So, I wrote about Crazy Town – how I would buy up a whole small town and create opportunities for mad people to come do art and make businesses and run their own lives, how I’d make movies about all the amazing things that would happen, all the stories that might intersect and how all sorts of incredible art and music would be made there and people would come from all over the world to just visit with folks and play gin rummy in the coffeeshop.”
TG: “Like the creation of a colony almost…”
Me; “Yeah, kinda like that…except not colonial, not exploitative.”
TG: “Some people have criticized Crazy Town for being exploitative of those with mental illness.”
Me: “Anyone who is involved knows that’s not true and that what we’re doing is changing the world…and completely wrecking the idea that mental illness is a problem with the individual. The research that is coming out of Crazy Town is proving this.”
TG: “You’re referring to the Chicago School work on recovery and sanctuary?”
Me: “Yeah. It’s becoming obvious that when people are given the chance to take charge of their lives and be a part of something amazing and hopeful and don’t have to try to fit themselves into a world that isn’t structured to accommodate them that people tend to do pretty well and are capable of incredible work.”
TG: “That does seem to be the case…”
(thoughtful radio-friendly pause)
TG: “So, tell us about that morning…when you got the first message…”
Me: “Well, so I wrote about Crazy Town, hit “Publish” on my old blog – which hardly anybody read at that time – and did some dishes and…”
TG: “Do you know how the donor found you, found your idea…?”
Me: “Nope. I have no idea who told them about me or how they found out.”
TG: “You know who the donor is now, don’t you? You alluded to that in your acceptance speech. You haven’t told anybody their name though.”
Me: “It’s a secret.”
TG: “Have you asked them how they found you or why they paid attention…I mean, there are a lot of people out there, posting all sorts of ideas…why you?”
Me: “They said it seemed like an interesting experiment in changing reality, that it was art.”
Me: “They said they wanted to see what would happen.”
TG: “Well, we’ve certainly seen some of what has happened. Did you anticipate that Crazy Town would have such reach in its impact?”
Me: “I knew that important things would happen. That’s why I wanted to do it.”
TG: “Thanks so much for being here to talk with us. We’ll have to have you back sometime to talk about your upcoming book, Proof of God and Other Tragedies. That’s coming out this Spring?”
Me: “Yeah, yeah. Thanks so much for your support and for the work you’ve done in sharing this story as it has developed.”
TG: “Faith Rhyne is an author, director and an artist-in-residence at the experimental community known as Crazy Town. You can find links to Faith’s work and see a video of her Academy Award acceptance by visiting Fresh Air at npr.com. We’ll be back next week with more Fresh Air.”
Clearly, this is all made up. It’s a fanciful entertainment.
In any event, that’s what I’d do with a billion dollars, some of it anyway.
I’d find ways to save the world by supporting the potential of other people who want to save the world and helping to develop cultural programs that normalize liberation from the way things were done before and nurture a deep desire to be oneself and to make beautiful things happen in the world…