The metaphor is perhaps one of man’s most fruitful potentialities. Its efficacy verges on magic. — José Ortega y Gasset (1925, p. 35)
How can use the power of metaphors to inspire many creative micro-actions that would create a shift in “public opinion” or more exactly in the collective consciousness?
In what ways we could bring knowledge of the Work That Reconnects (WTR), Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) and Dragon Dreaming (DD) that would support a cultural shift from an endless growth, profit supporting culture towards a life supporting culture?
How can all of this become an active concrete proposal for the movement towards the climate change conference in Paris (COP21) and beyond?
These are the questions that lead this article to analyze, propose and invite micro-actions using the Spiral model of WTR and exercises from and inspired by TO.
Many in the past have recognized the power of metaphors to shape our lives or collective psyche and the political reality in which we live:
“Goethe once said, “All things are metaphors” (Campbell & Moyers, 1991, p. 286). How we think, how we make sense of the universe, is by means of metaphor (Beckett, 2003; Turbayne, 1962). Metaphors are not just a literary flourish used by those with a poetic turn of mind, but a fundamental tool that has been used by humans from the earliest times to shape thought and action (Lakoff & Johnson, 2003). As Ortony (1975) says, “metaphors are necessary and not just nice” (p. 45). They are so pervasive and embedded in the way we think about things that we often don’t even recognize when we have used them.”
If that is true how can use metaphors to shift how people act and fill about important and essential issues like climate change? Maybe first we need to figure out what common metaphor prevents a concrete efficient action and stand on climate change.
During the project “In the name of the Mother”  of the artistic collective TheAlbero, we have spent many month traveling and asking people in different ways about their relationship or connection to nature and Mother Earth, asking them to reply through metaphoric language (using the body, the voice and poetic language). We have come to a conclusion similar to that coming out from the work of Joana Macy with the WTR, that there is strong suffering from our collective disconnection to nature. And that this suffering creates an emotional blockage and prevents us from really feeling the pain we have for the plant and ourselves as parts of it so we could really go ahead with the necessary shift, so to take clear and positive actions on the systemic change necessary to solve core issues like climate change. Moreover we have found overlapping connections between gender oppression with the destructive relationship we have constructed with our home plant.
We have come to believe that creative theatrical rituals and metaphoric creative actions could be very helpful to shift the collective consciousness that manifests itself as a very lazy public opinion when it come to “environmental issues” and slow and inefficient actions on the public administration and political field.
“The play’s the thing where in I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” – Shakespeare
The play is not only the play but also the playfulness. It is through playing that we return children and can gain or rather regain a greater understanding of the preset moment and what is needed to have a life sustaining culture. In Theatre of the Oppressed Brazilian Augusto Boal suggests playfulness and creativity as tools for social and political liberation and redemption of the oppressed. Augusto Boal developed a full arsenal of theatrical techniques, games and exercises that try to achieve exactly that: Newspaper Theatre, Invisible Theatre, Image Theatre, Forum Theatre, Rainbow of Desires, Legislative Theatre and Aesthetics of the Oppressed. Everyone can and does act and create, we are all artists and theatre and art can help us change reality instead of just waiting for it that is the essence of his thought and legacy.
But how can those techniques meant to liberate the oppressed be used to help an oppressed that is none of us and all of us at the same time, Gaia, our Mother Earth? How can we adapt those techniques and other useful techniques like Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas development of the Playback theatre to deal with this great challenge of our times? What is the kind of play we need to catch conscience not only of the king but of all of us?
“Modern man must descend the spiral of his own absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get around it, jump over it, or simply avoid it.” – Vaclav Havel
A spiral unites the circular and linear perception of time in one theory. As science become a more established and “grown up” source of knowledge it learns and ”discovers” simple truths that indigenous cultures have known for a very long time (the others have forgotten). Are we in the end of the spiral or in its beginning, Can spiral have such things as beginnings and ends? Are we in the descending or ascending in the spiral, does up and down have any sense in a spiral?
Joana Macy propose a spiral model for the inner work of an activist :
“The activist’s inner journey appears to me like a spiral, interconnecting four successive stages or movements that feed into each other. These four are:
- opening to gratitude,
- owning our pain for the world,
- seeing with new eyes,
- going forth.
The sequence repeats itself, as the spiral circles round, but ever in new ways. The spiral is fractal in nature: it can characterize a lifetime or a project, and it can also happen in a day or several times a day. The spiral begins with gratitude, because that quiets the frantic mind and brings us back to source. It reconnects us with our empathy and personal power. It helps us to be more fully present to our world. Grounded presence provides the psychic space for acknowledging the pain we carry for our world.”
This model inspires us to think of a dramaturgy that works from the inner towards the outer. We think that maybe by reproducing the spiral phases as metaphoric creative and collective actions we could bring about both the healing of the “inside” and shifting of the “outside”, together in harmony into the world.
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” ― Mother Teresa
So what does starting with gratitude means in a public creative action? It can mean giving thanks for the gifts we receive from Mother Earth and for its unconditional love to us. Everything we hold and gives has life comes from the earth and she asks nothing in return, and it will not ask in the future, this the unconditional love and gift that moves everything in our world. We could just hold hands in silence and say a quit heartfelt thank you to all the abundance we receive. We could give small gifts in the form of leafs and branches to the people in the street, making for them obvious and clear the generosity of nature. We could sing and we can dance while giving thanks, that is what we did for millenniums and has brought balance and harmony to our communities. Urbanization and modern lifestyle have pushed and marginalized ritual of thankfulness, play, song and dance from our lives. Our first action would be to reclaim it with joy and an open heart and invite others to join our circle. It might already make huge difference and open the way and the heart for the next steps that we need to take the biggest gift we received, life.
“Not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city.” – Khalil Gibran
How own our pain for the world would look like in the streets of certain city or town? It could be by expressing our pain to the world through images, sounds and words. It could be by creating a human tableaux (Image theatre) that shows the suffering of the earth and the suffering men and women of this time using. It could be done by reading texts and interpreting texts that speak of this (Newspaper theatre), it could be done by sharing stories that present the problems we are facing (Forum Theatre), it can also be done by simply singing songs and reading poems that express the depth of the wound of our disconnection from nature and the pain it creates.
“Initiation remains at the stage of ordeal unless I find a way to share the gift of medicine I found with my wound.” – Hector Aristizabal
How can we, trough a creative action in a public space, see and make others see with new eyes the reality and what needs to be changed around climate change or any other interconnected subject? One way would be moving from the image of pain to an ideal, or emerging image. Using Image theatre to explore the possible and necessary transformation and action wanting to born out of the wound, The motion inside emotion. It could be by opening a dialogue with Forum theatre or sharing through Playback theatre with the people that we meet on the streets our feeling and thoughts wound of pain we feel for the world. It is be seeking and sharing medicines that we all carry next to our wounds, it is by singing, dancing, and expressing and being the change we want see in the world. Actions in which invite the people around us to co-create the future.
“There is nothing like a dream to create the future.” – Victor Hugo
How can we go forth with the people we would meet and interact when we take the streets of Paris or any other city with collective creative actions? Maybe we could use the power of dreams and intentions, and collect from people that have interacted with us their hopes and future intentions. Maybe we could use techniques from Dragon Dreaming and create collective dream of the street, of the town, of the city, of the world. A collective dream that give birth to new energies and projects that create true community that heal our communities and the earth. Recover what was lost and build a better world and better future for future generation. Maybe we can just hold hand and express and sing our hopes and dreams, maybe we can dance in circle the ancient circles dances that we danced for generation. Maybe we can tell a story together, an old-new story.
Yes, we live in desperate times, but it is exactly for desperate times that hope is most needed and was created for.
Uri Noy Meir