Art is Not Necessary

April 19, 2010

Theron waving red fabric

Just as singing is not necessary
and instrumental music  is unnecessary
and color is unnecessary,
dance, most certainly, is not necessary.
Lovely sentences are not necessary.
Words that seize, soak and swim in us-
not necessary.
Images erupting, slithering, suspended
hanging on wall, window, heart
-not necessary.
Tales of worlds we know or barely dare to dream
-not necessary.
Sonnet, Sound, Sight, Sigh, Strum
not necessary
Windows made from a lens, a click, a camera
-unnecessary.
Just as awe is not necessary
or the leap of imagination
or questing curiosity
or the vibrating drumbeat
the spontaneous flower of group chant,
is not necessary.
Arc and architecture-not necessary.
Landscape, fashion, the wooden tool
that loves the hand,
-not necessary.
Not necessary, yet
something  pushes off the hard cold floor
all on its own accord
with the insistent of soul
to shape, play, and transform
anything it can touch.

This poem arose from reflecting on cuts in government arts programs and in response to a comment made by a church executive in answer to a dancer who asked, “Why does the church have so much trouble incorporating dance. He said, “Because it is not considered necessary.” He did not say this as a judgment. He said it as a sociological observation.

Meanwhile, 600 spiritual directors at a conference last week did hand dances with Jane Vennard and Betsey Beckman opened the event with InterPlayers from three continents dancing on behalf of all the religions that offer up hands in dance.

Art, like worship, prayer, and play are not necessary in the way that a job is necessary or a partner for procreating, or shelter, yet as the dictionary defines the word necessary, art is  “unavoidable, indispensable,” originally “no backing away,” from ne- “not” + cedere “to withdraw, go away, yield.” Art will not go away in the way that partners, parents, children, institutions, powers, and I will go away. The world makes art for no reason at all. Simply, because art is what it is. Art arises with any intentional choice.

Frankly, I am relieved not to have to SAVE THE ARTS. One more thing that I can put down so to free up energy needed for art to have more of its way with me. Wheeeee. (By the way, I still stand up for the arts when asked.)

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Spirituality and Body Wisdom

February 22, 2010

NOT LONG AGO relief, prayer, connection, and courage were primarily accessed through rituals of the body. Gatherings were in a domain of dance, song, and enacted revelations of spiritual imagination, all imparted with care by leaders from generation to generation, body to body, teacher to student. Remarkable technologies of healing, communal regeneration and divine support were bred through the body. Five paths- breath and movement, stories shared in plain speak or poetry, connecting hands, feet, earth and hearts, raising voice in cry and song, and easy stillness that offered unconditional space to just be.  Movement, voice, word, connection, stillness: five great freedoms, five routes to wisdom, five ways to receive life and let it go.

These five aspects of embodied experience, (accessible in InterPlay sequences) are begging to dance us and free us, body and soul, and lead us from one moment to the next. But, three things are necessary: we must be willing to enter the real, physicality of the dance of life, often easiest for the poor in spirit who humbly sense a need for love and guidance beyond current resources. The second need is a single step. Moving one step at a time is our body’s way to both have life and let go.  Dancing is gain and letting go.  The third need is to open our focus beyond sight, beyond the mono-vision of word, to the simultaneously complex and simple life within and around us. In InterPlay, we call this practice easy focus. It doesn’t mean minles of focus-less. It is a physical practice of opening, relaxing and welcoming more information. It is a great way to have  more life without the need to resolve it.

Clergy, rabbi’s, chaplains, healers, mindfulness teachers and interfaithful leaders are finding InterPlay a helpful route back to the immediacy of spirit. What relief to have our whole being (mind, heart, spirit, flesh) find ease, direction, comfort, and profound connection in what seems like play. In a phone conversation this week Liz Ellmann, Executive Director of Spiritual Director’s International, called to invite me to a twentieth anniversary gathering of their organization. Having been a member of an InterPlay group for spiritual leaders in the Seattle area for years she shared her gratitude for her InterPlay practice. Their event is attracting hundreds of international participants. At InterPlayce, April 7th the Wednesday before it starts we’ll host a gathering for spiritual leaders to InterPlay, dine out, and attend the first 7 pm session on InterPlay and Mindfulness led by InterPlayers Prashant Olalker from India, Connors McConville, Chinh Nguyen, and myself. This day will include celebrating Betsey Beckman and Christine Painter’s almost released book Awakening the Creative Spirit: Bringing the Arts to Spiritual Direction and The Dancing Word: Mary Magdalene, a DVD and class both of which incorporate InterPlay practices for spiritual direction. My new book Dance: A Sacred Art: Discovering the Joy of Movement as Spiritual Practice published by Sklyight Paths Publishing is also a great resource for personal and collective practice.

Here is a worship service incorporating InterPlay called Dancing with Loss and Letting Go, led by InterPlay Cofounder Cynthia Winton-Henry with Carla DeSola, Maggie Kast, Jaime and Ligia da Fonseca of India, Leo Keegan, Rev Melinda McLain, PSR chorale and guests.


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