Improv – Ward Mailliard

Ward Mailliard: I noticed yesterday for me there were some teachings and so I woke up this morning going, “I am not really feeling complete,” and I checked in with Jordan and Jessica and because often as teachers something happens in the room that you don’t understand and you misinterpret, and what I have learned to do as a way of surviving inside my own skin is to reflect and then come back. Because you don’t always get it the first time and sometimes in the “crying out” especially those of us who work with kids, it may come out in a way that the articulation isn’t something that you can fully hear. Larry really evoked something yesterday with the story of the underground and it just kind of bubbled up into the room and then Roxanne and Jessica and David and Jordan and so it was like all of these things stacked on top of each other and I am looking at it and I am like, “That’s a complexity I am not sure I can hold.” And so I am going to avoid that for this moment, but it always catches me about 3 a.m. Whatever I try to suppress or avoid and it is like “O crap, I have to deal with this.” There is a moment of holding the group, holding newness and the part of inviting the stranger and the stranger is going to bring something strange and new. And that newness is actually the opportunity; it is the seed of an opening for a community.

So, I could see spending a lot of time unpacking this narrative of the underground and I think that could be the subject of an entire Chautauqua, and we are moving into the completion today and I think that is going to be a part of the completion story and I am going to trust that that will be held in the completion story, but I wanted to acknowledge the cry and Walter Brueggemann, who, if ever you really want to “get” the Old Testament, read Walter Brueggemann I never thought the Old Testament had anything to do with me. And one time when I was going to Cincinnati, Peter said we are going to have lunch with Walter Brueggemann and I had no idea who he was, and he says, “he is an Old Testament Scholar,” so I better read one of his books so that I know something. We did not talk anything about the book, I think it was much more mundane like about tuna fish sandwiches or whatever it was they were having for lunch. But in that, in that Exodus story, and I think this is a perennial story and Rabbi Paula touched on an aspect of the story, that if we understand that when we are laboring in the land of Pharaoh, which he qualifies as the place of incessant productivity. This is because the way the Jews became slaves was in the time of famine, they had to sell first their animals, then their lands and then themselves to Pharaoh in order to eat, and when they finally reached a point when they had to leave, they had to go into the wilderness, which was the place with no support and all there was, was ‘mana’ (food) which was sufficient to the day and you could not pile up, you know it was only sufficient to the day. We just had each other. So when we leave the endless productivity of the land of Pharaoh, there we are in the wilderness and in some ways Chautauqua is a way to come together in that wilderness for support and inspiration and it is sufficient unto the day, the ‘mana’ is sufficient unto the day. One of the issues was that when they finally got to the promised land, they recreated empire under Solomon and so the form survived even though the personalities changed, and the question is how do we create the new forms, and one of the forms of education is the teacher as the ‘knower’ and the student as the ‘learner’ and in essence, that recreates the hierarchy of Pharaoh, the higher authority to whom we must all surrender, and what it does is that it absents the creativity of the community from the process. How do we bring that back and so connecting with the story this morning of the community rising, Shakti rising. Shakti to me is a term that is both feminine and universal. Because Shakti means energy, so the energy rising through the community to reinvigorate, re-instill the authorship of our own lives. It is a powerful thing when we suddenly take responsibility for what happened, and I think, taking responsibility for your response to what happened. Sometimes you have to say, “I don’t know. I don’t know what to do.” And that was the story that Rabbi Paula was telling and sometimes we have to listen to the stranger and the stranger may come from a totally different everything, you know.

I also think within our communities we can be strangers. And we can be isolated and marginalized within our own communities and so the stranger maybe everywhere and it maybe what we haven’t discovered about each other. I had an experience this other day with the Yoga teacher-training group. So I went in and I put them into small groups with a question. And at the end they said we have been together for three weeks, but the question, and the being together, allowed us to discover ourselves in a way that we hadn’t seen each other before. And so there is so much more than we see. And so I want to appreciate the sensitivity that was in the room that I could not see, and having it brought forward and for me the only act is come back and be curious. And say, “Huh! What was that about?” And then when you actually can understand it, you can bring language it.

flower vase

And I am not going to attempt to do that because I think everybody has got their own story but I wanted to acknowledge, partly the accidental, perhaps beautiful evoking and naming of the underground. And now we are in the sorting process of deciding how that connects with the over ground and what it means and what do we do about it, and all of that and that is the work that we have to do. And it is part of the naming and so I just want to say that I had no idea what to do with that, but I reflected and I still don’t know what to do about it other than to name it and then see what we do about it. Because I think that is also part of the lesson, what are we going to do about it? So with that I would like to move over to a new story.