Roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour…

Yesterday we had a full group session of BUST. I started writing about BUST last week, with the post What Does it Take to Support it Each Other to Rise and Shine? Since then, I’ve experienced two beginners’ group training sessions on aerial fabric, trapeze, partner acrobatics and stilt walking. Yesterday we had a full group session working with physical theater. As people reflected on their first week of BUST, tears were shed. Everyone is on their own journey and some people are in one of those times in life when we feel we’re at sea in rather turbulent waters. Tears were shed while people talked about BUST as an anchor in the storm. At the same time that BUST is for many a bit of grounding in the chaos, I’m conscious that we are a community of people on a journey to creating a quality performance. Right now, it is a bit hard to imagine how it will all come together. 

Yesterday, for example, we had different stations for training in physical theater. We could learn and practice juggling, the hula hoop, the diablo and rola-bola. As with all the arts we are learning, we clearly have varying degrees of skill. I had a stab at rola-bola. It consists of a wooden plank and a sturdy plastic cylinder. They cylinder is on the floor and you place the plank on top of it, cylinder more or less in the middle of the plank. On the plank are places at each end to put your feet – points where there is a bit of gripping material. Your task is to do a balancing act on the plank. With slightly bent knees, arms out, back straight, you teeter-totter on this mini see-saw. Eventually, you might juggle while doing this balancing act. Or you might have someone stand on your shoulders. 

Me, I was just starting. I was happy to be able to weeble-wobble for a little bit. Eventually, I could sustain it for a respectable amount of time. Yet, I’m far from integrating my weeble-wobble into a peformance. At one point, I looked around the room and saw the mayhem of people practicing this and that, to varying levels of success. I said to Victoria, one of the teachers: “I’m curious to see how all this will unfold. I mean, the other day someone I know told me that when they came to BUST last year they were impressed by the quality of the performance. They had expected a roughly done variety show experience, but it was at a much higher level than that.” Victoria simply responded: “That’s the magic, the mystery.” 

Magic. Mystery. This morning, I’m thinking about BUST and our performance and I’m thinking about people on their ships in the turbulent waters. We’re all in the same boat, as it were. We don’t know, we can’t know. Life and theater are both like that, aren’t they? In BUST we are creating as we live, by stepping into chaos, mayhem, uncertainty and unknowing.

I touched on this subject in a recent post, The Mystery. Brilliant theatre performance arises out of mystery and magic. Performers understand this. In the world of social policy, I don’t think I ever talked with anyone about magic and mystery. We talked and gave a lot of time to planning. We set up projects by listing our outcomes. We must all know from our own lives about the inevitability of chaos, mayhem and uncertainty. Yet, we’ve created institutional cultures that seem geared towards keeping chaos out. We’ve created institutional cultures where chaos is bad, where “I don’t know” is not said and where we relish in having total control. 

As I think about it now, the word delusion comes to mind. 

At this stage, I’m understanding that BUST has two essential ingredients: (1) teachers and students use the question “What do we need to do in any given moment to bring out our best selves?” and (2) a tacit agreement that we will trust in, and hold a space for, the involvement of magic and mystery.

How does this compare and contrast to the ways in which we tend to work together to promote social justice?  Image


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