The Conversation

Home
11/13/05
11/14/05
11/15/05
11/16/05
11/17/05
11/18/05
11/19/05
11/20/05
11/21/05
11/22/05
11/23/05
11/24/05
11/25/05
11/26/05
11/27/05
11/28/05
11/29/05
11/30/05
12/01/05
12/02/05
12/03/05
12/04/05
12/05/05
12/06/05
12/07/05
12/08/05
12/09/05
12/10/05
12/11/05
12/12/05
12/13/05
12/14/05
12/15/05
12/16/05
12/17/05
12/18/05
12/19/05
12/20/05
12/21/05
12/22/05
12/23/05
12/24/05
12/25/05
12/26/05
12/27/05
12/28/05
12/29/05
12/30/05
12/31/05
1/1/06
1/2/06
1/3/06
1/4/06
1/5/06
1/6/06
1/7/06
1/8/06
1/9/06
1/10/06
1/11/06
1/12/06
1/13/06
1/14/06
1/15/06
1/16/06
1/17/06
1/18/06
1/19/06
1/19/06
1/20/06
1/21/06
1/22/06
1/23/06
1/24/06
1/25/06
1/26/06
1/27/06
1/28/06
1/29/06
1/30/06
1/31/06
2/1/06
2/2/06
2/3/06
2/4/06
2/5/06
2/6/06
2/7/06
2/8/06
2/9/06
2/10/06
2/11/06
2/12/06
2/13/06
2/14/06
2/15/06
2/16/06
2/17/06
2/18/06
2/19/06
2/20/06
2/21/06
2/22/06
2/23/06
2/24/06
2/25/06
2/26/06
2/27/06
2/28/06
3/1/06
3/2/06
3/3/06
3/4/06
3/5/06
3/6/06
3/7/06
3/8/06
3/9/06
3/10/06
3/11/06
3/12/06
3/13/06
3/14/06
3/15/06
3/16/06
3/17/06
3/18/06
3/19/06
3/20/06
3/21/06
3/22/06
3/23/06
3/24/06
3/25/06
3/26/06
3/27/06
3/28/06
3/29/06
3/30/06
5/19/06
5/20/06
5/21/06
5/22/06
5/23/06
5/24/06
5/25/06
5/26/06
5/27/06
5/28/06
5/29/06
5/30/06
5/31/06
6/1/06
6/2/06
6/3/06
6/12/06
6/13/06
7/3/06
7/4/06
7/5/06
7/6/06
7/7/06
7/8/06
7/9/06
7/10/06
7/11/06
7/14/06
7/15/06
7/16/06
7/17/06
7/23/06
Mitzvah of Beauty
Creating the Mitzvah of Beauty (Mouse Over)

Dear Kim,

Yesterday, the DisAbility Project performed at Central Reform Congregation for three different schools who had sent their third or fourth grade classes.

The day before, I was at the same temple for the memorial service for my friend Edward Coffield’s brother, Phillip.

(Kim: It is amazing how different one day can be from another. I was thinking about my job (54 full-time faculty, countless adjuncts, 6 departments, 20 (or so) programs. There is something always going on that I should be doing or thinking about. It is like carrying a heavy basket of grain on my head.)

We performed in the sanctuary. Our little pieces about employment and transportation, name-calling and the ways in which people with disabilities have been treated throughout history. We did our thing.

I am thinking about how wonderful and generous it is that the temple so freely turns their space over to us year after year, to perform for school children.

God is everywhere and in every moment if we only are present. But there is a holy feeling of performing where people go to be with God, where they say this will be my focus for the time that I am here. This, and nothing else. No multi-tasking at the temple.

(Kim: It is funny how we use the word God where I believe that most people know (deep in their hearts) that there is no more of a God than there is a Santa. Yet the God we imagine performs because we, at that moment, believe that she is real. When I was going to a University of Chicago Baptist youth discussion group (probably as liberal as a church gets) the minister told me that god exists because we create him in our minds.)

And the space contains that energy. The energy of healing, of good intentions, soul searching and amends. Of births, deaths, rites of passage.

(Kim: It could be that the space is dead as well, but that our belief in the energy is enough to propell us to the next landing pad.)

After the service Thursday night, I went to thank the rabbi, Susan Talve, to tell her how helpful I had found it. I said how happy I was that we would be back in the very same spot the next day. This time to perform and through our performance, to advocate for social change in the world.

(Kim: Do you ever feel that sometimes when art is made for creating change that the art becomes sublimated to the mission?)

She hugged me and said she was so happy that we are using the space in this way. That this is what it is meant for.

(Kim: She sounds so terrific. If I wasn't so against organized religion I would certainly like to meet her.)

There was a part of me that felt a little embarrassed. I am not an official member of that congregation, generous though they have been to me. I go to services occasionally, mostly on the High Holy Days. But I am not drawn to regular attendance or to worshipping in that way.

I think I feel more divinity in the act of creating and in the community that arises around that shared activity. I don't do so well with rituals which I have not taken apart in designing.

(Kim: I think that is the key. Years ago I heard a sermon from a girlfriend's dad that we needed to find new ways of celebrating life. Now that has been my mission.)

I am a rebel with a blue dress on.

(Kim: I misread that as, "I am a rebel with a dress on," and thought that was a strange thing for you to write. Then I read "blue.")

Susan knows this. She has never once said to me, in all these years, “Joan, why don't you join?"

She always smiles and says hello when she sees me. Even when there are big crowds of regular congregation members. Like on the High Holy Days.

Last fall, when I wrote to thank her for donating the use of a classroom for rehearsal of a pro-choice piece I was directing, she replied that I was an angel because of my own work.

It was a tough time. An important production. Completely under capitalized. A largely hostile or indifferent media. And really important issues that signal the unfurling of the women's rights.

(Kim: I'm sorry I'm not on the pro-choice bandwagon. I think it is a terrible choice to have to make (to prevent a child from living), and I wish it was framed that way. Yes, it should probably be a choice, but it should be reinforced that it is only the lesser of two evils (curtailing life, or an unwanted child).)

I could have wept with gratitude. Especially when she said, "You never have to worry. I've got your back."

I guess we understand each other. As much as two people who are not more continually in one another's lives. That feels very special to me.

It is special to feel understood.

(Kim: At an award ceremony the other night I spoke how each of us should do unique work because noone ever shared our experience of time or place or body. The next day a stranger came up to me at Whole Foods and thanked me for what I said. That was very special.)

So after the service, I said how happy I was that we would be there the next day and how I felt that the creative spirit had an element of the holy. And we talked.

She talked about mitzvahs, the Jewish concept of doing good things as a kind of blessing in the world and added that there is a special kind of mitzvah, whose Hebrew word I cannot recall. This is the mitzvah of beauty. And that beauty is what heals us.

(Kim: I'd like to know the name for this kind of mitzvah. I did some reading and couldn't find it.)

Yes.

I am wondering how it might be possible to translate that idea to our every day actions. To seek and create and offer beauty as much as possible. Because that is a link to the divine.

(Kim: Or maybe to alleviate pain as Mother Theresa (and so many others) did.)

Later,

Joan

Saturday, Jan 14, 2006

Next