Happy Thanksgivukkah!

thanksgivukkah_largelogo2_icontextToday marks the second convergence of Thanksgiving and the first day of Hannukah in quite awhile. The last time Hannukah fell on the last Thursday of the month, the day that Abraham Lincoln proclaimed to be celebrated as Thanksgiving in 1861, was 1888, and the next time won’t be for another 70,000 years, give or take a few centuries. Due to the rarity of the moment, I was intrigued by the alignment.

Because Jews follow their own calendar and Americans follow the Gregorian calendar (or Christian calendar), established by Pope Gregory to keep Easter aligned with the anniversary of the Council of Nicea, there is a bit of a discrepancy as to what day is what. For both of the systems, as with any system man designed to categorize and control the infinite, there are a number of exceptions built into the program to make up for their inability to perfectly align with nature. Amidst their disparate leap years and relatively fixed holidays, every now and then, just as with their belief systems, something overlaps.

For me, although I realize that both of the systems, as with all of the man-made systems we cling to, were designed to achieve some semblance of understanding about the world we inhabit, I appreciate that there are built in moments which allow us to celebrate life. I only wish that we could one day transcend our calendars and other manufactured systems of folklorish understanding in order to live in that state of celebration of community when the sun shines on every day, regardless of how we name it. Nevertheless, I am still extremely appreciative of these holy days and seek to celebrate them for all that they are worth.

This Thanksgivukkah, I am thankful for the land of milk and honey. I am thankful that life reveals herself to me every day through events which sharpen my skills as an effective and efficient human and relationships that help to define who I really am. I am thankful that, despite my fallibilities as a man-made man, designed through a convergence of culture, clay, and creativity, life continues to give me ample opportunity to learn, grow, serve, and receive through a spiraling kaleidoscope of frustration, elucidation, redemption, and grace

To list everything that I am thankful for would take more time than I have words for so I think I’ll get to just being in a state of thanks and open myself to giving as I appreciate the festival of lights that guide my way..

What Do We Really Need?

By looking at the needs established in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy, we are able to get a greater sense of what is facing humanity, how we can utilize our resources in order to meet these needs, and assist our fellow brothers and sisters in accessing the abundance that is our birthright. Unlike his contemporaries, who studied pathologies and the nature of mental disease, Maslow’s focus was on those who were more successful at navigating the waters of good mental health and managed to create happy and fulfilling lives for themselves. In creating avenues through which a greater percentage of the population can meet their needs in order to have a more vibrant and fulfilled civilization, we are wise to follow the paths of those who have excelled rather than mire ourselves in the pitfalls of failure.

Maslow’s hierarchy has five tiers addressing the needs that humans encounter in their experience of Western civilization. First are the physiological needs of breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, and excretion. Among America’s growing homeless population, cultivated by the commodity world view which values a house for its investment potential more than its potential as a home, many of these needs are daily struggles which ensure that an increasing number of our citizens will not be able to fulfill their potential as human beings.

For those that do find food to eat and a place to sleep and use the bathroom, their struggles are further agitated as they strive for the needs of safety, such as security of body, of employment, of resources, of morality, of the family, of health, and of prosperity. Given that the vast majority of Americans are a paycheck away from having these securities stripped from them, and since morality is largely legislated and health itself has become a commodity, a huge portion of the population devotes much of their attention to meeting these needs. Again, due to the societal mismanagement of our resources and the inordinate disparity between classes, our standard operating procedures force us to dismiss an immense contribution to our economic viability because so many of them are devoted to aspiring to meet needs which are readily accessible yet held just out of reach by the complexity of the financial system and the ruse of its fundamental necessity.

hierarchy of needsFor those of us who manage to meet our physiological and safety needs, we can direct our attention toward addressing our belongingness and love needs, cultivating our friendships, family, and sexual intimacy. Finding a place and a people to which we belong, we are able to address our esteem needs, nurturing our self-esteem, bolstering our confidence, gaining a sense of achievement, thereby being respectful of others and garnering respect from others. With healthy esteem, we are able to focus on our self actualization to cultivate our own morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving ability, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts.

If we as a society continue to operate in a way in which the majority of the population must struggle to meet the most basic of needs, how can we expect them to find belonging, to feel any sense of confidence or achievement, or to orchestrate their own self actualization? In moving forward together and realizing that we are all one human race headed in the same direction, should we actualize our unity by ensuring that our resources are managed in a way that will meet our collective needs, we will be able to grow and evolve together. Should we ignore our collective needs in deference to the game of competition that has manufactured them, we will continue to be engulfed in unmet needs.

The Merit of Raising Awareness

My nephew is a boisterous sort, freely flinging his opinions wherever he may feel inclined, and sometimes they’re actually pretty poignant and land where they are supposed to in order to trigger a necessary response. That’s the great thing about family. They can sharpen you like no one else in the world.

This particular idea that Matthew shared was on a post about homelessness in Sarasota that I’d thrown out there. He said something to the effect that what is necessary is for people to actually build shelters instead of merely building awareness. While I do find his point to be true that we as a people do need to provide shelter for people, I don’t want to disregard the merit in building awareness as well. For when we address a societal malady, it is not only what we do that is important, but the why.

As someone who does what I can to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness, I didn’t take offense to Matthew’s statement, because The Flow Factory in itself is somewhat of a self-regulating homeless shelter that has housed many people since I’ve become the primary resident. It has not brought any sense of permanency as far as a home is involved, but it doesn’t offer that for me, so I don’t really advertise it for others. Considering that we will all eventually shuffle off this mortal coil anyway, there really is no such thing as a permanent home. Nevertheless, the energy that is extended here is always one of sharing, openness, celebration, collaboration, and love, those things that I find to be the necessary components of home, for however long one resides there.

As these things are cultivated here in The Flow Factory, I get to use the results of my little lifestyle experiments as fodder for letting the rest of the world know that there is indeed another way to go about living than merely repeating the societal patterns that are not giving us the results we truly want in this grand experiment of life.

Sometimes, I get too caught up in the building of the home that I don’t always do the building of awareness, which I actually feel is the higher calling in the grand scheme of things. Because when we as a people are looking for another way, when we have grown tired of seeing the same suffering repeated over and over again as we have become mired into the routine, we need to be shown another way before we can change our direction. As a people who identify ourselves as the individual memory sets we believe ourselves to be , our awareness grows by those who move beyond the memories of “the way things have always been done” and have the courage to take the turn unnoticed by the rest of us and report back to us on the life beyond ourselves. Building awareness of needs unmet and the multiple ways the universe conspires to meet those needs when we move beyond our attachment to the known is a vital role in directing the course of civility into the civilization we are creating together.

Do We Care More For Animals Than Humans?

A recent article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune pointed out the grand lack of shelter for the growing number of men, women, and children that are becoming homeless due to the downturn in the economy and the consequences of the mortgage scams that have plagued our nation. In our town, there has been much discussion about the homeless situation, and one of my friends pointed out how willing people often are to donate to an animal shelter, but often either turn a blind eye to the plight of homeless humans are are downright loathe to help the less fortunate.
Why is it that people are so eager to help our four-legged friends, yet so unwilling to offer the same care to those of the same species? Why do we hold the people who have been victimized by our commodity-based culture in such disdain?
Perhaps it is because in this culture, we laud the merits of hard work so much that when we see someone unemployed, we attribute their lack of participation as some sort of character defect. Because each of us is pushed so hard to work so many hours and make so much money in order to be able to afford the lifestyle of materialism that is paraded before, we often take it as a personal affront to see people who are not jumping through the same hoops as us. Perhaps deep down, we are so jaded by having to do so much just to get by, that we resent those that aren’t as integrated into the system that we are forced to serve.
Perhaps the less fortunate represent to us an image of our possible future selves, and we fear that by acknowledging their plight, we may be unwittingly drawn into it ourselves. The majority of the people in this society are but a dropped paycheck away from becoming as destitute as those we now shun, and though it would make more logical sense to help them in good hope that karma will find its way back around and help us in whatever future perils we might face, we often turn away, refusing to regard them with the respect that any human being deserves, instead treating them as if they are below us, clinging blindly to our precarious position on the socio-economic ladder.
Perhaps we’ve just grown accustomed to them as poverty has been propagated throughout our civilization. The New Testament even quotes Jesus as saying that the poor would always be with us, thereby hammering into the minds of those brought up in the Judeo-Christian tradition that there is no cure for poverty, but that it will be a constant in our lives until the day we die. Of course, this tradition also singles out humankind as a special breed of creation, the first and only to have their nature born into sin.
Perhaps it is not merely the poor that we despise, but humanity itself. For so long, it has been taught that man’s natural state is rebellious, irreverent, and sinful, that we have come to deplore our entire species, as evidenced by the way that we treat each other, and even our own selves. When we see someone mired in a deplorable situation, the memory of our religiously tainted view of humanity triggers the explanation that all who suffer are getting what they deserve.
Because we have grown up in this uncivil civilization, we regard it as the way of life and find fault in those who cannot maintain adherence to the fabricated reality our culture has created around us. Is it possible for us to open our eyes to the reality that it is our culture, our faulty human developments of science and religion, that have created this plight? Must we continue to seek blame in individuals instead of finding the courage to question the system which increasingly doles out greater and greater helpings of suffering and strife while claiming to offer ease and luxury?
Perhaps one day we will realize that human beings and the relationships that are cultivated between them are more valuable than the things they create. Perhaps one day, each of us will wake up to realize what an incredible miracle each of us is. Perhaps one day, we will find the wisdom to love ourselves and expand that love outward to encompass every member of our species.
Until then, let us care for the species which share our planet with us and hope that the act of caring for another will become so desirous due to the good feelings it creates that we will have no choice but to care for all living beings.

How I Spent My Make a Difference Day

After spending the entire day doing all of the last minute gymnastics in the olympics of live theatre, I was pretty beat. Although I was excited about having more scripted performances, I didn’t quite feel like jumping into writer mode so I opted for hands-off director and presented opening night of Cemeterror to be an improvisational workshop. The majority of our cast was comprised of the Windmill Theatre Company of New College, and though I told them I’d walk through and discuss their performance, I pretty much just let them play and walked through every now and again to make sure they were having fun, and see if they needed a break or water.

As I was attempting to put the stantions up for the queue line, Don started commenting that a Southern Baptist minister once asked him why he enjoyed doing haunts. He said that he liked to hear people scream. The minister asked him if he didn’t think that was a bit strange, and Don remarked that people come to haunts because they want to scream. When he hears that sound, he knows he’s done a good job and it makes him happy. Although I may not be as stuck on screams as Don, I do like to see people happy, and as I watched people emerge from facing  their fears and subjecting themselves to the horrific, everyone emerged with a smile on their face. So I feel like I’ve done my job as well.

go-mad-and-stay-happyToday, I took some time off of Cemeterror production to take part in Make a Difference Day through Volunteer Community Connections. The project we’d designed was through the Garden Brigade of the Common Wealth Time Bank for the Sanctuary of Sarasota, a developing alternative housing community for the homeless spearheaded by Trinity Without Borders. The task was to move some of the bamboo reeds from the back of the property, where people have found refuge for years, and create a privacy wall along the front of the property.

When Misha, his son Devin, and I walked over there with our shovels and buckets this morning, I was joined by a youth worker from First Baptist Church and a handful of teens. The boys were as excited as any teenager can be to do manual labor, but with a bit of the right direction from the youth worker, we got started digging holes in the front of the property and digging up plants from the rear. As we went along, we were joined by a few other carloads of teens and youth workers, and after a few hours, we had not only created a beautiful new privacy barrier for the ministry, but the boys had also taken the shovels to the overgrown grass and washed in earth to clear out a big portion of the parking lot. One good thing about Baptists is that they do get shit done.

Vallerie, the tireless champion of the poor and downtrodden, and leader of the Trinity Without Borders ministry, was ecstatic about the results. And although she can sometimes be a handful to deal with, she’s now offered me a key to the trailer and carte blanche with whatever other crazy endeavor I want to partake in. So I guess today really did make a difference.

Before I get my makeup on and to go play Seymore Deadpeoples for the night, I also get to make one more difference and launch the Go Mad Storyteller Challenge campaign. This is a year long campaign to inspire people to tell stories about the differences people make in their communities. I’m much more excited about writing this script than the Cemeterror script, but I’m thankful that I have such grand opportunities for more live theatre.

 

The Story in The Story

With each iteration of the Cemeterror maze, I have considered a new storyline. And each time I’ve taken it apart and put it back together again, that story has changed. I realize that a huge part of this attraction is the interaction with things dark and scary, all of those base emotions that haunt us and give us fear, yet I feel that humanity operates largely out of a bad relationship with those things and part of our moving forward into a reality in which we can all live in peace depends upon us coming to grips with the fears that motivate us into action and inaction so that we can have more control of how we recognize and channel the flow of abundance that waits for us beyond our emotional turmoil.

The process in itself has been such a journey. Faced with the fears of governmental repudiation, harm to others, and a burgeoning reputation as a clusterfuck specialist, I tried not to focus upon those things that would deter me from reaching my goal, but instead focused on the opportunities available to me when I sought the realm of the infinite which still existed beyond the borders of the finite. It is my hope that the Cemeterror experience will help people achieve such an understanding.

Fears-are-storiesI’ve been thinking a lot about fear these days, as it’s the emotion I need to work with in order to pull this stunt off, and I’ve come to believe that we create the majority of our fears. Through superstitions, attachments, and misunderstandings, we keep ourselves from experiencing much of the wonder of life because we are afraid of it.

Not all of our fears are bad. Some fears are healthy and work on a biological level to keep our bodies intact and continuing on in life’s sojourn. Like every other member of the animal kingdom, our deepest fear, that which propels our survival mechanisms, is the fear that our existence will end, not necessarily our complete existence, but this temporal location we have assumed as we animate these bags of organs and bones.

Even before the idea of ego comes into the mix, bringing with it the cacophony of screams, whines, and worries that squeak their way out of this emotional artifice, the simple experience of being alive, without a name, without a job, without a political affiliation, religion, or 401K, is something to be held sacred, and we fear the loss of it. Whether we fear abandoning what we know or reaching that “undiscover’d country from whose bourn no traveller returns,” there is, within each of us, a burgeoning desire for self preservation. Yet I wonder how many fears we could alleviate in our lives if we could only let go of our selves.

As the world continues to unveil itself to me, offering its morsels of creamy goodness within its sometimes hard outer shell, I notice that the more often I am able to let go of the attachments my self has created, the way things are supposed to work out, the way they are supposed to be done, the way other people should do things, the order in which things should go, and a myriad of other self-imposed limitations, the more I can release my grip on those things, the less I fear how life will happen and the more I can merely follow its flow. It’s still a conscious thrust and parlay to win this battle of wits, but I think I’m getting more adept at it as I go. Yet I think that, like many, one of the fears I still cling to is that the game will end before I finish my story.

We each have the opportunity, infinite opportunities, actually, to open ourselves up to be more than the petty creatures we often believe ourselves to be, and allow ourselves to be used by the Great Storyteller to inspire, amuse, and amaze, to be used for a greater good than self preservation and become a catalyst for a better world. The lives that we lead are the stories we tell, and whether we play a character or cultivate character, we are always a part of the greater Story. I hope my story within The Story helps more storytellers rise.

The Return of Seymore Deadpeoples

550469_10151209417452557_837284733_nAs I’ve been developing the maze for Cemeterror, in which all sorts of fun props and spooky decor are being added, a few people have asked me if I am going to resume my role as Seymore Deadpeoples last year. Considering that the end of the maze now leads to a community bazaar at The Flow Factory, I think that my energies will be better spent mingling among my community and answering questions about what else we have to offer. Nevertheless, I felt that the costume suited me quite well, and considering that last year my dialogue consisted of my yelling, “Raaaaaahhhh!” every few minutes, I think my character could use some expansion. And I think that I’d be better suited for the sideshow than the haunt.

As we’ve been trying to initiate more flow by sending all of debris that has collected in The Flow Factory out with people that have needed them. We’ve also had people donate things that continued their way through, and we’ve picked stuff up on the side of the road that have been repurposed as well. There are also things that we picked up that just haven’t yet found their place.
Two of those items are a cumbersome yet funky reclining wooden chair that I brought home on the little blue wagon and a coffee table in need of refinishing. They’ve been sitting by the side of the road for a week, and I’ve been wondering what to do with them. Fortunately, an innovative dude on a bicycle carried the chair off on his head the other day, but as I looked at the coffee table since, I thought that it would make a great stage from which my character can engage the dead peoples that he sees.

Since there was really no script last year, and since I am writing the script for this year, and since my character stands out as the one light colored costume in the bunch, I think that Seymore Deadpeoples has much to say as he drifts in and out of existence. However, I think that his best lines won’t be the ones written by me. As we’ve played with this idea of infinite potential that we’re developing through ABC (squared) Economics, and that with every dream comes the work necessary for its manifestation, I have more than once thrown out the line, “There’s the rub.” And although I know it’s a bit out of context, I think that, as we as a people wake up to a new way of living in the world beyond the commodity world view, we had might better examine what dreams may come as we expand our vision of what life really is, die to what we have been, and throw off the mortal coil that keeps us from the joy that is our birthright.

CemeterrorPoster2013FINISHEDNEWEDITAt The Flow Factory, we aim to open people up to the reality that the universe is incredibly abundant, and that we have everything that we need in order to create a life that flourishes with love, creativity, celebration, and mirth. Yet as we live through “the way we have always done things,” we tend to diminish our capabilities by limiting ourselves to what can be done only through the facilitation of a currency that has lost its intrinsic value, has repeatedly failed in developing the wealth that it promises, and has increasingly been absorbed into the accounts of a very small percentage of the population. If we can instead wake from our zombification and realize that we do indeed have all rights to let life flourish through our hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits, and need no longer serve these ways that seem right to men yet always end in death, then we can open our eyes to a new tomorrow and emerge triumphant from our zombie apocalypse.

So I will, as Seymore Deadpeoples, be performing, among other things, the “to be or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet. That is, after all, the question that we are asking people. Do you want to be the hero of your own life? Do you want to be a life artist? Will you be a warrior for what you know is of virtue? Will you be the change in the world that we are looking for?

If you are given the chance, will you make the most of the life you have been given or will you shirk from your potential and choose the status quo? To be or not to be, that is the question, but what being you will choose is the mystery. And as I see more dead peoples come to a new understanding of life, I see the potential for a lot of rebirth from this Cemeterror.