January 2014: The joy is in the journey...
I wanted to kind of lose myself in a mountain of movies and meandering through time rather than climb Croagh Patrick or tackle the work that has been pilling up over the last few weeks, which I have had no excuse not to do over the holiday season. However I’ve been deliberately procrastinating and to some extent unwilling to take the time or make the effort because I often don't know where to begin or feel I'm not quite ready. In fact there are so many things to do, things to buy, people to see and places to go that we can become overwhelmed and burnt out by all the noise in our heads.
So instead I decided to have an enjoyable Christmas holiday. There was time with my family, friends and with myself that I haven’t had in the last few years. I read a little of Awakening the Heroes Within as well as going to Claremorris leisure centre most days to for some rest and recreation. However I also got some quality work done without too much difficulty because I made it more like play than being a slave to the productivity. I bumped into people at social gatherings and Christmas dinners and we talked about what we were up to in our lives and needless to say the festival and its ethos was a topic of conversation. I met some interesting people and was given plenty of food for thought, which has steeled my resolve to make the non prophet festival 2014 a new beginning to the never ending story of creativity in our community.
I’ve not made any New Year resolutions as such but what I think this year is about is moving forward, one step at a time and finishing what I’ve started. It’s about living with the exultation of succeeding and being all I’d like to be and also living with the paralytic fear of failure or of things not working out exactly as I imagined. I think my greatest challenge will be to try and communicate with others clearly and honestly about what I expect from them rather than trying to manipulate people into performing for the greater good of 'the community', according to me. After all the means must reflect the ends and it's not about my creativity but being part of the creative process of something greater for the overall good of our multi-faceted community.
So much is about being able to approach the people I find it hard to talk to like other country folk whose cursing and somewhat crude means of communicating makes me feel uncomfortable at times and I find it hard at times to fit back in after more than fourteen years abroad. It's only in the last year that I've begun to believe that I belong here as much as anywhere else in the world. The siren call of seductive sunnier shores is always tempting to cast off amy sense of community although with time I have come to appreciate the greener grass of home. After as odyssey of adventure and having gained some knowledge and experience on our world stage there's come a time to share what we believe to be the meaning of our journey: not only to bring back a gift but to follow our own path and F*#* the begrudgers. However it's not so much that people begrudge our experiences or advice or what we have to say but how we say it that makes it difficult for people not to take personal offence when we try to assert our vision and desires for the rest of the world. When we discover our true selves there's less of a need to defend our way of life or to imagine it to be any better or worse than another's, it's just different.
I had a conversation a few days ago with someone who had been kicked out a community group because they complained among other things about cursing. Ironically it was their own hostile words to another member over something minor that led to the book being thrown at him. We do make mountains out of molehills but tempers and voices tend to rise when nobody seems to be listening to the vulnerable child within who is unable to communicate their desire without drowning out the other.
It takes two to tango and we do tend to dance around rather than directly say we're hurt because our cultural creates all these complex means to communicate to protect our fragile childlike selves. I don't want to go that negative road so I’m going to do my level best this year to think about the positive possibilities of creating with my community in a transparent way.
I began by talking to Jimmy Flynn from the Chamber of Commerce and Pat Welsh from the Claremorris Lake Committee some months ago and over the christmas once again about the festival. However it's time to gather all the groups I'm interested in working with together in the not too distant future. So I guess that what I need to do is start working on a plan of action. Upon seeing Michael Brennan, a man of the law I thought he could play Wall, one of the Mechanicals in A Midsummer..., as the wall spelt backwards represents the law that keeps Pyramus and Thisbe, as well as Lysander and Hermia apart; Pat Welsh "the man in the moon", as he looks likes the actor who played him in a film version of A Midsummer...; John Fallon the lion's part as chairman of the Claremorris Men's Group and men’s shed; Peter McCallig the director of the Claremorris Drama Festival as Quince the director of the Mechanicals and the creative John Corless from 'get up of your arts' as Bully Bottom. There are many others from further afield, like Seamus from Tuam with his guitar who'd make a great Puck and I'd hope like Peter Quince that "here is a play fiited".
Now I just have to get everybody to agree! Of course things may not "fall pat as I told you" but there are no shortage of creative ideas and possibilities for co-productions when we awaken the heroic spirit within our community:
"The essence of claiming the Creator within is to recognize that the great spiritual source of the universe is not separate from us. We are part of that source, and hence co-creators of our lives–with God and each other. Claiming our capacity for co-creation can be an incredible, empowering accomplishment...[however] We should also try to match our visions with the true nature of our Soul and the reality of at least some of the rules of the external world. Otherwise, our visions may be merely escapist daydreams...A positive but realistic projection of our future frees us to enjoy life in the present and make our dreams come true. Visions are most powerful when consensually shared. If a group supports your desires for yourself (or for the group) and consciously holds the vision, the results are generally much more powerful. However what is most critical is that your vision conforms to who you are at a deep level and what your life, at best, should really be about.”
I've often fallen at the last fence because I burn out on this arduous journey back to my community with whom I seek to to share this most rare vision, this elixir of life because I don't always ask for their permission or support to venture forth in the first place. I do need it though I don't necessary seek it in a direct way as I fear I won't be able to cope or go on due to the rejection of others who don't share my passion for whatever reasons. Sometimes I feel depressed by this lack of life and "I can't go on, but I know I must go on, so I will go on trying and learning from my mistakes to make the non prophet festival an ongoing event.
The Unnamable 1953 novel by Samuel Beckett closes with the phrase "You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on," which was later used as the title of an anthology of Beckett works. Though I'm not trying to emulate Beckett, I'm influenced and inspired by any artist who asks in their own way the same sort of questions we all ask and seek answers to: the meaning to our mysterious life. We may feel a certain sense of despair along the way when we're lost or not sure which direction to take or which path to choose but there is always a way out of the dark forest or way around the obstacles we encounter in life. It may take some time and effort but the joy is in the journey not only in reaching our destination.
On a cold, wet, windy day I watched "The Way" about 'El Camino de Santiago'. I awoke the next morning and much to my lazy dread and delight I had no excuse not to lift my head from the pillow and take the pilgrim's path from Ballintubber Abbey to Aughagower, as part of the Tochar walk, which is halfway to Croagh Patrick.
Modern thinking stresses the interconnectedness between our ways of being or behaviour and our environment. However it seems to me that we have come full circle once again rediscovering our organic relationship with the earth and we're beginning to thrive once again as a community in touch with all the possibilities humanity and technology can offer us to appreciate the simpler things in life, like walking this ancient path of pilgrimage or putting on a play in the community park. Theatre and Religion owe their mutual origin to fertility myths and Dionysian rites and festivals celebrating the sacrifices and hard work we have to make before harvest time when we reap the benefits of what we've sown. It seems like life is one long cycle, sometimes circling back before we can move on to greater spiritual heights or different levels of awareness of our relationship to our environment.
I can only speak for myself, although there have been others along the way that have felt lost in an enchanted forest only to find their way out through guidance and the grace of their gods. As Dante did, so do I find myself:
"Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
che la diritta via era smarrita.
In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost. Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell of that wood, savage and harsh and dense, the thought of which renews my fear! So bitter is it that death is hardly more. But to give account of the good which I found there I will tell of the other things I noted there..."
As I walked the Tochar way I shared bits of my own journey with other pilgrims, including my year in Italy working on Dante's influence on T.S. Eliot's Poetry. Little did I know back then that I was entering that same forest known to all wandering souls looking for a way out of their own Inferno. I'm not out of the woods just yet but I'm on familiar terms with the demons and dragons I've met there. Puck with a bit of luck will look after me and not lead me astray again. I've accepted that I am both master and fool, that I am part man, part minotaur yet able to rule with reason and that their is nothing to fear but fear itself when entering the labyrinth of life. There is and always will be great joy in the journey, even when ones falls as it is filled with pain and laughter but get up and get on the road again. The thing is not to think too much about the final destination but to believe in that divine spark within ourselves whatever path we have chosen and enjoying the journey:
As an old friend of mine, Hamlet said to his more reasonable friend Horatio who was trying to persuade him to turn back just before he met his tragic end: "Not a whit, we defy augury. There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is ’t to leave betimes? Let be."
We must all face the final curtain, conscious of the path we've lead in life–the readiness is all.
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