Friday, June 20, 2014

The Great Country of the MV Explorer

As I find my way back to "reality" post voyage, days are filled with bridge-making and processing. How do I bring this abundance of new stories to my old life?  How do I bring the joy of the children of Ghana to my student's lives?  How do I bring the performance passion from India to my classrooms? How do I bring the blend of spirit and devotion from Burma to the programming of AFP?  I am having an amazing time this summer wrestling, embracing and defining those answers.  Its a process.  Its a fight.  Its a blessing.

As I complete this story, this Blog, this snapshot of much more than simply a "sabbatical," this life changing voyage...I am not going to attempt to write one final chapter that ties it all up neatly.  It wasn't a neat and clean experience.  It was a spiritual, intellectual, professional and personal shift.  I look forward to remaining present in this shift and to my total participation in each moment.  I look forward to the processing and application of the multiple gifts I have received overt the past 4 month--some I am aware of, many I am not.  I look forward to the SHARING--sharing the international treasures with my students, the Anne Frank Project, the Theater department and SUNY Buffalo State campus.  I am particularly excited to collaborate on new projects surfaced from my travels with new colleagues, from new disciplines, new departments, new campuses and new organizations.  The world has opened itself anew to me and my appetite to learn, process and apply is at an all time high!

It is difficult to offer a sample of photos to support this final entry as has been my practice with this blog throughout.  So, how can I help you visualize the sparks that ignited these thoughts?  By sharing possibly the most important "country" we visited...the MV Explorer, our ship.  This home away from home was much more than the place we ate and slept.  This was the village where we laughed, cried, debated, learned, questioned, studied, rehearsed, danced, sang, exercised, rested, meditated, washed, sweat...Lived.  This was home to our new family--a family of 600 students, 40 faculty, 50 staff and 185 crew members from around the globe all sharing a floating academic village in pursuit of dreams, ideas and change.  A temporary family that has become permanent.  Thank you to my, our new family, friends, explorers and colleagues.  We grabbed hands and took a giant leap of faith around the world together.  My hand is out and available to you for future adventures together...Ubuntu.

My students...

Intro. to World Theater:  Burma field lab 
Acting I:  on stage on the ship
Intro. to World Theater:  India field lab

The Mv Explorer...Home....

Neptune Day--A nautical tradition where "pollywogs" who are crossing the Equator for the first time must kiss the fish, bathe in fish guts and shave their heads (optional) in honor of King Neptune.

Faculty and staff are cast in various roles
Yours truly was the MC:)
The fish is real
The fish guts aren't...
Nate went for the shave
As did a surprising amount of women

The AMAZING crew of the MV Explorer.  


We are overcome with good fortune.  The lessons continue to reveal themselves to us daily.  The world is astounding and right in front of us.  People are Good.  Ubuntu, Namaste, Amahoro.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Giving Shape and Structure to Story in London

It was fitting to end our trip around the world in London--the home of so many his-stories and the greatest storyteller of the English language, Shakespeare.  Among the many professional and personal lessons I have learned over this journey, this sabbatical, this adventure is the power of patience.  The world is always right, the world always tells us where we need to stand to participate in the organic flow of all things.  Since we are just humans who have been taught that knowing is everything, it seems we have handicapped ourselves into actually believing this by rushing to knowing at every possible moment, experience and event.  Since I am human I feel the tug to know frequently--my brain feeds me the psychological propaganda: Come on, Hurry, know it, possess it, figure it out so we can rush on to know the next thing that comes in our path and put it away in our overflowing library of knowledge--there, we did it again.  Following this auto-learned path has led me to miss multiple moments and, most importantly and to-the-post, shuts down my ability to listen to the world.  My solution:  Shhhh the propaganda, stop, breathe and patiently listen.  The benefit:  the answers always come and the world communicates clearly where, why and how I should be at a particular place and time in my life.  The problem:  the answers rarely match the fantasies I created in my mind about why I was at a particular place and time in my life.  After all of the spiritual locations we have visited over the past 4 months who would have thought the cosmos would shake hands with the Zen in the UK?  The more I live the less I know...this has become increasingly obvious.

So what was the primal truth that came to me amongst the hustle of crowds, fish 'n chips and pints of beer of London?  The power of structure in story.  The immense and intense experiences from our journeys are often difficult to quantify, difficult to summarize, difficult to hold on to, difficult to process. Great plays and great stories are great because they are about huge events theatrically distilled through the art of storytelling.  The giant ideas of stories must go through the magical process of can we squeeze the essence of the experience out of the entire experience?  We can't keep the audience in the theater for Anne Frank's over 2 years of hiding in terror.  We can't expect the audience to have 100 days available to be told the story of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.  So, through the magic and skill of storytelling we dance, we sing, we paint, we trick, we condense, we theatricalize, we imagine...we provide Structure.  The most beautiful, inventive home an architect can imagine  won't be livable without a foundation, walls and a roof.  So too with great storytelling--no structure, no story. This is why we remember the Disney classics (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King) and forget those that strayed from the proven structure (Black Cauldron, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear)--Don't mess with our structure!  Structure is the discipline we crave as story receivers--it comes to us at the subconscious level and most of us don't articulate our displeasure of its absence with talk about structure--we say we were "bored" or we "just didn't like it...can't quite put my finger on why."  I can--you missed the love, care and guidance of structure.  Like a teenager who complains about parental rules, he may say he doesn't want structure but take it away and see what happens--broken windows, no homework, hanging with the wrong crowds are all pleas for structure.  My students who are reading this have already repeated my (our) favorite quote as it is the foundation of our work together:  "There can be no freedom without discipline."  Discipline is structure, it smacked me in the face during our short stay in London.

I now gather the pieces of our 4 month story and search for the structures that will hold this impossible, unreal, expansive, crazy, exhilarating, thrilling, challenging, rejuvenating, exhausting, eye-opening, heart-breaking, heart-expanding, life-changing, life-affirming story together.  I look forward to crafting this story to share with my family, friends, students, the Anne Frank Project and SUNY Buffalo State. How will I do this?  I don't know, but I have some ideas....thank you structure, thank you London.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
I saw the Globe's Titus Andronicus.
Wonderful production--a real treat!
Nate getting a Shakespeare lesson.  He's a terrific actor, staying interested for Dad:)

The structures that "hit" me and reminded me of my next storytelling step

And if the metaphoric structure of structures wasn't enough, some of London's finest made it perfectly clear as we watched the Changing of the Guard parade at Buckingham Palace...