Monday October 21st FOOTNOTE (2011, Israel)
7:15PM Willard Straight Theatre, Cornell University
Admission: $8 general/$6 seniors/$5.50 students/$5 CU grad students
Synopsis: Rival professors in the field of Talmudic Studies, a father and son face off when a prestigious award is bestowed upon the elder scholar.
This movie has fantastic reviews. I would love, love to go but, when you are a working mum with a lot of things you’re already committed to be spending time on, it is not so straightforward.
How one organizes and prioritizes one’s time at different phases of one’s life is a huge topic of its own. I don’t want to get into that here, rather I would like to point out something I’ll call the “hidden value of the no-shows”.
Anybody organizing an event, wants people to show up. That’s obviously the best possible outcome. And yet, even for people who can’t make it, the mere fact that this event is being organized has an impact. I had never heard about this movie until I received a notice about the Cornell showing. And now I know about the movie and can add it to my list of movies I’d like to see. If I had merely read about this in a news feed, I would definitely be interested given the synopsis and reviews. But it is the double whammy of the event being organized locally in addition to the more abstract information that elevates wanting to see the movie, tipping it into something I really don’t want to miss (and fortunately, this movie is accessible and can even be acquired through iTunes so one doesn’t have to miss out completely!).
This has two sources of value. First, as an individual, I have been informed and educated about something I had no idea about. Learning about something potentially stimulating and enriching is always enjoyable and I appreciate that opportunity. Second, events of this type provide a conversation point for community discussion. I will inevitably run into friends who attended the movie, and we can discuss issues raised by the movie, what we learned from it, additional Israeli cultural events etc..
Yes, it is not as good as participating and actually being physically present, but it is still a spin-off benefit with impact.
Like many others, I have wrestled with different levels of attendance at community events, both as an organizer and a participant. This issue is keenly felt in Ithaca given our demographics and location.
We definitely need to both increase the participation rate and also to grow our community. However, we should not forget the upside to this challenge. If fewer people turn up than we hoped or expected, we get to have a more intimate, perhaps deeper exchange with a more profound impact (I have a great example of this from my own experience which is too much of a digression to post here but please feel free to have an offline conversation with me about it).
The opportunity for a more intimate exchange can be immensely valuable and can strengthen commitment and participation of those present.
And for those who can’t be at the event we should remember that they may well have really really wanted to participate. Simply learning about an event communicates valuable information. This information can educate, stimulate future interest and have other beneficial impacts. As an organizer I might take personal disappointment at the no-shows, but as a community member, I need to think about the bigger picture and the “hidden value of the no-shows”.