I picked up Chris Jonas and Dylan Mclaughlin from Albuquerque airport the other day. The had been in New York working on an opera with Anthony Braxton and the Tricentric Foundation. I knew they were tired and that they had just been through an amazing collective creative journey. I knew this could mean that the question “Well, how was it?!” could seem overwhelming.
I asked it anyway.
I’m glad I did.
Chris described the experience of being in a space where individually people were supporting each other to step into their higher selves. His words: “higher selves.” I didn’t ask him to define this because I felt I instinctively knew what he meant. I don’t know that I can define higher self. I can say that I believe when we are being led by our higher selves, we veer towards restorative (renewing health and strength) acceptance, curiosity, inquiry and reflection in how we relate to our selves and others. He said that people stepped into their higher selves and then collectively they were all in something bigger than themselves that unleashed brilliance.
Chris and Dylan were part of a team of sixty people performing an opera in Brooklyn.
On a much less grander scale, I felt I had experienced what he was talking about the other day whilst practicing a clown skit.
Carolyn, Corinna and I decided to perform two variations on a scene for input from our Wise Fool teacher, Sarah Jane. When we had created the two skits the week before, we all seemed to have a preference for the second version. In the run up to this practice session, Corinna and Carolyn expressed an interested in running through the first one, so that we could draw upon anything valuable in it. I remember feeling a bit doubtful, while also being happy to experiment. Sure, I said – let’s run both for Sarah and see what happens.
What happened is that we performed that first version of the skit and felt giddy afterwards. We hadn’t been practicing since we created it the week before. We felt giddy because we so enjoyed the first version of the skit. Something had clicked. We had arrived at a performance that seemed to have gone to another level.
We didn’t plan it. We didn’t expect it. We can’t tell you how it happened.
That thing that is outside of all of us, while also threading through us. That thing that Chris was talking about that left audience, performers and crew alike all mesmerized and giddy in New York, after each performance of their opera.
Creating an opera or creating a five minute clown skit are both forms of conscious collective creativity. The ideal, when consciously creating (bringing into being), is to be able to step into our higher selves and get caught up in something inexplicable that leaves people feeling expansive, touched and inspired.
That night, as I was falling asleep, i became giddy thinking about all this. I have this mantra that life is a collective creative process. Life is little different than creating a skit, an opera; it is a on-going performance piece. The other week, I asked the question: What kind of player are you? Now I was being directed to think about mystery – the part of all this creativity (bringing things into being) that is unknown, unimaginable until it is there before us and within us.
Unable to fall asleep, I sat up in bed and thought: “Surrender to the mystery.”
What creates the conditions for anyone to step into their higher self? What can I do, you do, we all do to support each other to go there? What does it take to be able to surrender to the mystery? Have you ever experienced that moment of stepping into the mystery? What could it mean for social justice activists to surrender to the mystery? If you said “yes!” to this surrender, how would you work differently than you do now?”