Saturday, January 3, 2015

FRANK WARREN WANTS TO SHARE SECRETS



The old saying goes that if two people want to keep a secret one of them has to be dead.  Frank Warren would put a whole new spin on that secret concept and change it to tell everyone your secret, just don't put your name on it.  Warren created an art project through the mail years ago that has mushroomed into a worldwide community project: PostSecret.

To participate, create a decorative postcard, tell a secret no one else knows and then send it off - anonymously - into the universe.  Since 2005, thousands of people have taken that unique opportunity to confess, reveal and confide a hope, a dream, a desire, a compulsion that is utterly truthful and is unknown to everyone but you, the writer.

Started as an experiment on Blogger and originally updated every Sunday with ten new secrets, the site has had almost 700,000,000 hits and counting.  Go to www.postsecret.com and make it 700,000,001.  Apparently, a lot of people have a lot of private thoughts they can't help themselves from revealing.  Maybe it's cathartic or a pressure release or just plain useful.  Since he has received over 1,000,000 responses to his request for anonymous postcards, enough to fill six books to date, it's clear he has touched a cord in people all over the world.  You too can send a decorated card -without a signature - to:  PostSecret, 13345 Copper Ridge Road, Germantown, Maryland 20874.  Warren even confesses he includes one of his own secrets in each of his publications.

It all began in November 2004 when Frank Warren handed out 3000 postcards randomly in our nation's capitol.  In a recent interview, he explained the act in two ways, "maybe I was stuck in a boring job or maybe I was having my own personal struggle with private secrets."  His original goal was to get 365 postcards.  Warren had no idea he would still be collecting them ten years later.

What makes this idea resonate so intensely?  To Warren, "it's accidentally tapping into mystery and wonder.  It's an invitation into someone's personal life, a revelation, a chance to chronicle transformation." Postcards can be passive or aggressive, good, bad, ugly, silly, sentimental or serious. Cards come to his house, sometimes 100 a day, from every country, America to Australia, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Greenland.  He even received a card in a language he didn't recognize, one that a colleague finally identified as Elfin from "The Lord of the Rings."  They comprise a tower far taller than Warren himself and necessitated that he and his understanding and supportive wife build another room on their house.

In addition to paper notes, he has also received messages on such diverse objects as rocks, flip-flops, bras, purses and seashells.  As Warren explains it, "There are two kinds of secrets, those we keep from others and those we hide from ourselves. Secrets create walls that separate us, but if we have the courage to tell our secrets we create bridges of understanding."

Frank Warren advocates this "currency of intimacy" and you are invited to celebrate its success on Friday, January 16 at 8 p.m. when he speaks at the Lyman Auditorium on the campus of Southern Connecticut State University. He will tell the story of his amazing journey in "Post Secret," speak of his six New York Times Best Selling Books, use music, videos, images of postcards and the secrets that have transformed lives. Microphones on site will allow audience members to share their secrets in public.  For tickets ($20, faculty $10, students $5), call 203-392-6154 or online at www.southernct.edu. His latest book, "The World of Postsecret" was released November 4 and has already made the top of that prestigious list. Some completely honest disclosures are "My family is like a foreign country to me," "I'm one of the bravest, My secret?  I'm just as afraid of dying in a fire as the people I save, " and "My husband packs me the lunch my mom never did."

One unexpected offshoot of this project is a young man who created a blog to reunite lost digital photos with their owners by posting the pictures on a website in the hopes they will be recognized.  Called "I Found Your Camera," it has put these precious photos back in their rightful place.  Another fascinating impact is Post Secret's support of suicide prevention and its support of good mental health.  Many people in anguish have reached out and in confessing their most innermost thoughts helped themselves to a more stable realm.   Over $1,000,000 has been raised for suicide prevention and garnered Warren a 2011 Mental Health Advocacy Lifetime Achievement Award as well as an invitation to visit the Obama White House in 2013 to share his thoughts on mental illness. His blog has been touted as the "Best Blog on the Internet" and his TED Talk is one of the most watched.
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For Frank Warren, "secrets are universal."  To prove it, he has taken his project around the world and spoken about it from Australia to Ireland, England to Spain, New Zealand to Brazil.  Wherever he goes, he has discovered that secrets release burdens and that "a safe social space inspires revelations."  Maybe one day he will pass on the keys to his non-judgmental empire, just like Willy Wonka, but for now Post Secret is a 50 hour a week, 365 days a year, occupation, one that gives hope, healing and promise to the giver as well as the receiver. 

Grab a postcard and think about what your secret is. Frank Warren and the world are waiting.  As for the Warren's mail carrier, you can be sure he received a of of well-deserved Christmas gifts this holiday season.

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