Where does inspiration lie? Everywhere!

This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

Please join me with your comments and make this a dialogue . . . and visit Susan's Poetry!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Imagining Abundance

Thursday night I left the Pendle Hill Quaker Study, Retreat and Conference Center campus to attend an event in Germantown that relates to every aspect of my "work" and "calling"performance, interaction, dialogue and stimulus for writing that will lead to more interaction that I believe is our only hope for creating meaningful changes in society.  Here is part of the flyer for Just Act Ensemble's People's State of the Union, a Lisa Jo Epstein production:

 A theatre-based catalyst for community activism and personal change.

Do you have a story about something awry in our union that the next President must absolutely hear?  A story about a moment you felt true belonging--or the opposite--in this country?

Do you want to take action and do something about it?

Just Act's mission is to ignite public dialogue and action planning using theatre-based tools with collaborating partners invested in making meaningful social and civic change. 

As a multi-dimensional resource across sectors, Just Act is a distinctive, innovative hybrid of artistic and community engagement.
What will happen at Just Act's "People's State of the Union" Community Gathering?
  • People will gather in circles to share stories about things they have experienced that gave them insight into the true state of the American "union." 

And then, through theatrical improvisations, led by the amazing Just Act Ensemble, we will collectively try out solutions for changing the state of the union towards making it the more just and equitable one that we all deserve.

We all know that once a year, the President delivers the State of the Union address to highlight important national issues and suggest priorities for the year to come.
It's a broadcast from one to many.
But we need to speak and listen to each other, and so stories about the state of our union are being exchanged and collected across the country to form a "People's State of the Union" poetic address.

     Please join Just Act at our People's State of the Union tonight

Take action to change the status quo. 

Collectively, let's name our country's challenges, make the invisible visible, identify actions to change what has become 'normal' today so tomorrow's state of the union is more equitable and just for all.

This event moved me mightily, and I want to thank the entire assembly with a "nearly poem" that chronicles the stages of the event:   

Cornucopia (PSF) bg.png
Imagining Abundance

Every circle is full of folks eager
to talk.  At first a word, a sticky note
of love, of want, of obstacle to life.

Images rise embodied and fair
when next actors’ imaginations flair
in loud then soft and fast then slow machines.

We laugh, applaud, and story on exper-
ience to tell the president the state
of our union, our belonging, or not.

Then actors’ embody story for spect-
actors to hold in theatre labs of change,
forums of joined expertise that will heal.

Heal?  Yes! Trial and error win in time
when every circle full of folks donate
its bodies and instincts and space to try.

We are the union, don’t forget!  We are
the solutions and not the problems.  Our
dialogue proves we can and will succeed

where corporations fail.  Imagining
abundance, after all, restores the truth
that we, informed and gathered, elders and youth

can touch and heal if we but take the chance
to listen to each others’ stories and care
to see and weave our varied strands as one.

Abundance, skill, and strength are visible!
Once we see beloved society
on stage, we know we kind can make it be.

Imagining Abundance
From the vision of Augusto Boal and Lisa Jo Epstein
After the Just Act State of the Union

Copyright © 2016  Susan L. Chast

          Stories people told were about fearful encounters with violence, about betrayal by justice and education systems that were supposed to help, about disparities in raising children in conditions of poverty and wealth, about people wanting to vote for Trump because they were ignorant of how Trump was against themthere were so many stories! But what moved me is that the one we all chose to enact and find interventions and alternatives to was the one in which a camp counselor/teacher cried in front of his mostly black students while telling them the statistics that 1/3 of them would die before the age of 40.*  
          Several students told the teacher that he shouldn't have shown his emotions in front of them. Administrators and parents agreed that students should hear the reality but not be subject to the teacher's emotions. One child (or maybe two?) wrote a note to the teacher thanking him for crying because they didn't know anyone cared.  The community in dialogue this night felt that crying was a human reaction to a horrible reality based in white supremacy, that education should allow it.  That human emotions are needed as groundwork for change.  
          I  nearly cried to see this agreement among the multiple nationalities and ethnicity represented in the room.  We examined the possibilities if it was a man or woman who cried and whether it was a person of color or white.  We dialogued and "spect-acted" about how different approaches to the situation allowed change among the human beings engaged in the interactions.  
          In short, we all walked out thinking and talking, no longer strangers.  I sensed that the Just Act Ensemble changed many of us present from feeling dis-empowered to feeling empowered.  Our voices matter, and our voices carry more weight when we "just act" together.  I hope to attend many more events like this.

          The Dialogues/Conversations I've attended by Just Act and Cranalith and NewCORE have convinced me that we can create positive change from the ground up by listening to each other's stories.  Someone asked at the last NewCORE event at the Art Museum of PhiladelphiaWhat if we could fill rooms as large as Trump fills with his misleading speeches?  I say, yes, yes! And what if so many of those occurred thatno matter where we were and what crowd we were inwe could look around and always see people we've been in conversation with.  What a network of people with positive values, people who have experienced feeling empowered!  Maybe when that happens we can make a living democracy and keep social programs and education alive.

So, does what I am doing as Artist-in-residence at Pendle Hill have anything to do with this?   I hope so.  I am one human, and the Susan that God leads to partake of these conversations and the Susan that God leads to write this Alice in Wonder novel, these blogs, and so many poems is one and the same.  I expect to find the intersection. Maybe it is in the performance incubating in my heart, maybe in the writing workshops and tutoring I want to do.  All of this feels God-filled though I can not name it yet nor see where the path leads.  I will keep on taking action, praying and being mindful, caring about and participating in community, and perhaps live into the answer.  This is what Jesse reminded me of on Thursday morning during our Arts and Spirituality consultation, a quote from Rainer Marie Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” 
I will write more as way opens.

*I am not sure if the  exact statistics, but the teacher and several participants knew them well and agreed on them.