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.

Is Samhain Still Sacred?

Some time ago, when the rituals of religion were developed around natural occurrences instead of ideology, the festival of Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”) was instituted as one of the four annual festivals to celebrate the changing seasons. In the Gaelic tradition of the northern hemisphere from which Samhain emerged, it was the end of summer, dividing the year into halves with Beltane, May 1, which has come to be known as May Day. Since Irish tradition was passed along orally until the Middle Ages, there is much speculation on the actual roots of this holiday and how it was transmogrified into what is now referred to as Halloween.

samhain61Whether the roots of the holiday are referred to as Gaelic, Celtic, or pagan, the tradition of recognizing this time of year, where the veil to the Otherworld is opened so that the spirits of the dead are free to roam the land, predate the Christian tradition of All Saint’s Day, when dead saints were honored. It is said that these spirits ranged from benevolent to mischievous, angelic to demonic, and that fruits and nuts were set out to appease and bless them as people gathered the harvest of summer and readied themselves for winter. Legend says that it was a time when people stayed close to home, often performing seances to communicate with the spirits of relatives who returned to their homes, and when they did go out, they wore their clothes inside out or went in disguise. The ruse may have been to fool the spirits or it may have been to dress like the spirits in order to get the fruits and nuts, but eventually the tradition emerged to perform tricks for the treats, both as entertainment and as emissaries of the mischievous spirits.

The holiday was also a time of fire, a time of purging, divination, and letting go of the old in order to prepare for the new. Beginning at sundown on October 31, Samhain celebration lasts until sundown on November 1, sometimes lasting for three full days. May we all participate in this day, as with each of our days, with awareness of the traditions that have shaped our world, and the conscious participation in this game of life as we seek to more readily celebrate what we have and release whatever folly may bring us harm.

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.


Our Deepest Fear

CemeterrorUPDATEDNow that I’ve installed the Cemeterror for a third time in a new location, I get to work on the new script with the “scarefessionals” tonight. With the first installation, I wrote out a script based on the characters I had to work with. On the second installation, I decided to wait until Don set his props to see where the story will go. Believing that the third time’s a charm, I’m going to get the “scarefessionals” a bit more involved in the process this time around. After all, this is a collaborative art form.

As I looked over the characters the first time around, I thought about what made them scary. For the creepy clowns, scarecrow, and masked denizens of the dark, it wasn’t too hard. But for the ghosts and ghouls there was a different aspect that appealed to me. I think that the spectre of death is not nearly as scary as life not fully lived.

When I first considered doing Cemeterror at The Flow Factory, I considered changing the theme to focus more on this Zombie Apocalypse craze that is sweeping the nation. I think that the popularity of zombies says a lot about who we are as a people and what fears are truly gnawing away at our consciousness. For with zombies, whose attack comes with a transformation into the very thing that consumes us, existence is relegated to mindless consumption and endless wandering with no emotional connection, the very existence that many of us see being cultivated in the commodity world view around us.

I think that many of the ghosts and ghouls that inhabit the Cemeterror haunt became that way before the zombification of our society and have other fears that plague their purgatorial existence. And like the people in our real world, those fears are what propel us to do the mean and nasty things that we, and others, do. The fears of going without, of not being accepted, of not being understood, of being attacked, and of falling into all sorts of peril are often at the root of our discontent and the fulcrums of the bad decisions we make which so often only serve to help manifest the outcomes of the fears we so try to avoid.

deepest-fearAs I’ve given thought to fear during this process, I am still largely reminded of Marianne Williamson’s description of our deepest fear, and while it may not actually make it into the haunt, I hope that the essence of it will shine through. She says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Although I’m delving into the pits of fear with this whole thing, I hope that I can shine a light in the darkness.

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 Turmoil in the Cemeterror

As I shared in Sarasota Day on Monday, the fire marshal put a bit of a kink in my plans for Cemeterror, but as I put myself into the job that must be done, it is still turning out better than I could have planned. Of course, it disturbs me that public service entities like the fire marshal’s office must come shake down citizens for more money, but in this society where everything is a commodity and so much activity is required for the supposed life-giving resource of money, I have come to accept it as par for the course. It is what it is, and I will continue to go with the flow in the hope that what I do within the system will help us to overcome the system and be able to flow more freely in the days to come.

CemeterrorPoster2013FINISHEDNEWEDITI’m not mad at the fire marshal’s office, but rather feel compassion for them in having a profession that requires them to be afraid for a living. Considering the stress they are under, both of the representatives that visited the site were kind and cordial, and seemed to actually want to help us meet our goals of opening in time and putting on a fun, yet safe, show. And while the act of having to take precautions in order to meet ordinance standards is a pain in the tookus, I can appreciate the intention of public safety under which the guidelines were created and have no problem with walking the extra mile in order to avoid a possible pitfall.

Although the extra precautions cause me some extra work, they also present challenges which force me to sharpen my skills and rise to becoming a more creative artist, a more wily businessman, a more conscious citizen, and a more active member of my community. For me, the more work I have to put into whatever craft I am creating only makes the unveiling of the art all the more joyous. There was a time when craftsmanship and passion were paramount in this land, and I sincerely hope that what I do here at The Flow Factory will inspire more of that.