Volume 1: What Next? Now that the page has turned, what stories will we need to change our world?

Chapter 5: It's a new day...or, so the choir sung

Martin Tull - Bio “It’s a new day.”  Or, so the choir sung.

It was just after midnight, in the early morning hours of January 20th, 2009 and I stood in the grand hall of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.  The 2009 Green Inaugural Ball had been underway for several hours with thousands of swirling guests clinking glasses of wine, chomping on little bits of food on toast, and trying not to step on the long flowing ball gowns.  Celebrities were lining up outside to walk in on the “Green Carpet” where a flock of paparazzi were assembled to ask them why they cared about the environment, and what sort of plug-in hybrid they drove.  To say the least, it was a quite a scene.

Now when I said earlier that the choir sang, I really meant it.  Members of the Agape Choir had flown from California to D.C. and were singing backup for will.i.am, a dynamic, and politically charged lyricist and frontman for the Black Eyed Peas.  As they sang “it’s a new day, a new day,” I found myself thinking deeply about those words, and about all of the passion and hope that was behind them.  The choir on stage was not the only group talking about how the world would change after the presidential inauguration.  For weeks, I had been hearing about how things were about to be very different.  As we move into the first few weeks of the new presidency, countless articles have attempted to quantify the differences between President Obama and past leaders, many of the articles bringing bold distinctions to light.  But even with all of the talk about the “new day” that was dawning in America, I couldn’t help but think back to some of the comments in the previous threads of this online dialogue.  

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Chapter 4: The necessity for balance

Milenkocropped Bill Cleveland, in the initial post of the “Wild Caught Stories” blog, wrote about the need for balance between the safe and the challenging, the material and the transcendent, tradition and modernity, opportunity and responsibility, chaos and order.  I would like to explore a bit further this necessity for balance and how it relates to our moment in time.

It is my belief that creativity requires tensions

On the one hand, as creative humans we need to see the world just as it is, face it squarely, and accept it without filtering out the uncomfortable.  We must accept both the beauty and the ugliness, the gentle and the violent, the wise and the stupid, the just and the terrible.  We can’t move forward unless we have the courage to take it in without flinching.

On the other hand, we must imagine what is possible.  As creative humans we’re compelled to create images of what the future could and should be.  In my opinion, we need to nourish this desire, learn to articulate this imagined future’s attributes and qualities, and share them with others. By doing this we can create a shared understanding of what our future ought to be.

Without this ricocheting back and forth between what is and what could be our creative ability diminishes.  It’s easier for us to resolve the tension by becoming realists or idealists. But when the tension is released, we lose our ability to figure out the immediate steps we need to take to move toward our ideal future. We forget about the relationship between the small acts and the big picture.  In short, we get lost.

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Chapter 3: Nana I Ke Kumu: Look to the Source

PuaAno ai me ke Aloha, e na hulu mamo like 'ole:  Greetings amongst all of us, birds of many feathers.

In times of uncertainty,
The Po’e Hawai’i (The Hawaiian People) say,
“Nana I Ke Kumu.”  “Look to the Source.”

It is there in the stories of the ‘Aina (The Land) that certainty can be found.
And it is in those stories that we will recognize and reconnect to every thing holy,  Within us, within each of us, human and in all other forms.

It is in those stories that we learn to honor the earth worms, which burrow deep, slender holes in the hardest soil, to loosen, to prepare, to enrich for the planting of seeds of every kind;

It is in those stories that we learn to honor the honey bees which burrow deep into every flower, finding and carrying the sweet pollen of life to plants of every kind;

It is in those stories that we remember the beauty of all beginnings, that belief in beginnings  are part of us, have always been part of us;

It is in those stories that humans are reminded that we are but one kind, among many, each beloved for its special gift, its special kuleana (responsibility) to the Whole;

It is in these stories that we learn that our relationship to every living being is kinship, not kingship not stewardship;

It is in those stories that we are taught that leadership rests not just in one man or one woman but in all; that responsibility for all wars, all peace, all chaos, all clarity, all failure, all success rests not in one man or one woman, but in all;

And it is in remembering what we already know, that the breath and breadth of life will grow.

So, brothers and sisters, “Nana I Kou Kumu”, “Look to your Source.”


Chapter 2: To Look Ahead, Look Backwards

Maryo 11-05 b If I could take a trip in  a magic time machine back to a single moment in history,  I'd be beamed to Broadway on that night in June, 1937, when Orson Welles' production of Marc Bliztein's The Cradle Will Rock opened -  despite all the attempts to shut it down.

Have you seen Tim Robbins' film, Cradle Will Rock?  If not, rent it and watch it tonight.  It's a terrific film, the cast is remarkable (John Cusack, Vanessa Redgrave, Bill Murray, Ruben Blades, Susan Sarandon, John Turturro...), and the story – well, stories – are breathtaking.  Three stories are woven together:  Diego Rivera's mural at Rockefeller Center challenging the domain of “art” as defined by the rich and powerful.  Hallie Flanagan of the Federal Theatre testifying before the Dies Committee (later called the House Un-American Activities Committee). Orson Welles building the production of Blitztein's musical.   Called “a mostly true story” by Robbins, this film will suck you in.  Yes, details have been changed or embroidered, but the base stories are absolutely true.

And my time-machine moment?  Well, the Federal Theatre was coming under fire for being too radical at this time in the life of the New Deal, and, per Flanagan's book Arena: The Story of the Federal Theatre, “there were rumors in Washington that [The Cradle Will Rock] was dangerous” for it addressed issues of labor unions, strikes, free speech, and justice.  In mid-June, a letter had come from Washington prohibiting the opening of “any” new play between then and July 1 for budgetary reasons; but since The Cradle Will Rock  was the only show slated to open, the targeting wasn't subtle.  The actors' union and musicians' union forbade their members to performing in it. Armed guards sealed the theatre building.  How Welles figured out a way around this was brilliant and I guarantee you goosebumps.

Yes, the night when The Cradle Will Rock opened anyway is the moment I'd visit.

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Chapter 1: A Second Chance Story

ClevelandAdventures in Dreamland
Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, November 22, 1963, 2:30 PM. I am sitting in the sixth row on the window side of Mr. Kadatsky’s sophomore high school English class. As usual, Kadatsky is searching for signs of imaginative life among the desks.  He is imploring us to wake up and pay attention, to the tall tales, fantastic ideas and metaphors swirling around us in the room.  But the bell is only a half hour away, so I am lying low.

For me, hiding out in these parts is a matter of survival. For most of my emerging-into-my-funky-self adolescence I have been hunkered down in the comforting cave of a waking dream state.  But, Kadatsky’s exhortations and passion make it extremely hard to withdraw, anywhere.  It’s not that I don’t, sort of, like the guy, but every time I come in here, I’m thinking, “What metaphors, what stories?”

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