Today was bleak and windy, an almost archetypal November day in Vermont. Missing only was the cold; it has been absent for much of the Autumn. What little light penetrated the thick clouds appeared only over the lake. Light showers of rain fell, and people scudded by the cafe where I ate lunch with a friend, their coats or umbrellas over their heads. The cat went out only briefly. Night came early.
Friday night I attended a performance of Water Is Rising. The show tells the story of three islands in the Pacific, their peoples, and cultures. All three islands, as is true of many Pacific islands, are low-lying, and highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change. The artists who created and perform the show have undertaken their current tour to explain their plight to North Americans, and to ask for our aid in stopping global climate change. I have written about the performance and the environmental threat to the people and their islands, elsewhere, and wish to speak more about the artists’ vision here.
I came away from the performance, and a brief post-performance conversation with the cast, with a deep appreciation for the artists, and their cultures. The cast radiated caring, openheartedness, and sincerity. Through the instrument of the show, they offered us, the audience, a glimpse into their lives and culture, lives centered on the sea, singing, and dancing. They also offered a dream of a healed, caring, humane world. They cast no stones, demonstrated no animosity, occupied only the stage and our hearts. They simply offered themselves, asked us to see their personhood, and requested our love and assistance. I have encountered such openheartedness and warmth before, in the presence of the Maori on the Just Therapy Team from New Zealand.
The cast of Water Is Rising reminded us quietly and firmly they are Christians. They are also, they insisted, Indigenous people with an ancient heritage of belief. Like many Native Americans, they have learned to take the best of both traditions, and to create from that a life path. Their songs, some written just for the show, others traditional, reminded us to acknowledge Mother Earth, protect the oceans, and love the places of our birth. Combined with dances, the performers wove, before our eyes and ears, a richly textured and colored Dream of relationship to Nature, Ancestors, and the Creator.
Writing about that Dream, now, I begin to understand they were rebuilding The Sacred Hoop of The People before our very eyes. I imagine Black Elk would have been deeply moved to witness their magic, as would my father. I imagine many people left the theater more closely connected to Pachamama, and to the peoples of the far Pacific as a result of the performance, and am reminded that to hold the Dream of a healed creation requires an open heart and great courage. I understand, with more immediacy, the simplicity of spirit necessary to carry, and to work for the fulfillment of, the Dream. I am also reminded such simplicity of spirit is often seen in our culture as soft, irrational, or foolish. Yet, like the fools among us who dance, clown, and love the corn into growing and feeding the people, their simplicity is their power.
Black Elk is said to have died believing he had failed his vision of a renewed Hoop. He did not know the Vision, a grand Dream, would continue to unfurl across generations and many Native cultures. Perhaps his spirit joined the throng of Ancestors filling the theater Friday night, and eating the delicious meal of love made manifest by the performers. May we join these courageous people from afar in holding firm to the Dream of a renewed Earth, and peace and caring for all peoples, human and otherwise. May we each take our turn at the oars of the great canoe that bore them here, and we pray will take them safely home over gently receding waters.
You can read more about this is topic here.