By Jacob Sapon, CC Storyteller, On-Tour March 2017
Seen through the lens of value #75: Recognizing when you are being curious and when you are being skeptical.
Remembering Kāli’s teaching from Clown Class:
“Oh Shit moments” happen when we end up somewhere we didn’t intend on being. We spill something, we’re stuck in traffic, we hear bad news. In these moments instead of imploding and becoming a tiny contracting little ball of “Oh Shit, oh shit, oh shit!!” how can we find a way to breathe and say, “Ahhh! Interesting”? In this way, we create space, wake up to the present, see what new opportunities are around us, and play forward.?
So everyone now try that— put that “Oh Shit” moment inside your body, spin around, create space, and turn it into an…. “Interesting!” Celebrate not knowing what to do next!
Providence, RI: The first gathering:
The room is filled with curious anticipation—twenty-five loving faces arranged in a circle wondering what will happen next. The energy of the room is that of collective inhalation—wondering, waiting. Curiosity and openness.
Kāli will read stories from her new book, I am Compassionate Creativity, and we will play music, melodies and harmonies on the fiddle and guitar.
My guitar is in my hand; I find the feel of the strings on my fingers comforting.
I was not nervous, but now upon hearing the sound of my finger lightly touch the high E string, I realize that it is out-of-tune. There is no time to tune — Kali is reading, our guests absorbing.
And Doubt begins to creep in to my thoughts. At first, the doubt is entirely concerned with the present moment, the right now. What if I haven’t practiced this enough? I’ve never played with someone else in front of an audience before. What if they aren’t connecting with the stories?
Gathering speed, the marble of doubt rolls faster and faster.
Doubt gains momentum. What if they think what we are doing is cheesy? What if it doesn’t mean anything to them? Are they judging me?
Doubt becomes worry, distant and detached from right now– What if this group of people is connecting, but others won’t?
Yet as the music begins to play, my fingers acting on long-embedded muscle memory, countervailing forces play at the fringes of my consciousness, steadily gaining strength.
“Shema” means “listen!” It is the Hebrew word that begins the most central and essential prayer of the entire Jewish tradition.
It requires creativity to continue to listen to the music as it is played, to realize that, surprisingly (Discouragingly? Interestingly? Excitingly?) I have absolutely no idea whether or not we are playing together, and to smile into the void of my fear and just keep listening.
I recall from Kāli’s class the difference, as a clown, between Imploding—becoming stuck in my own thought-patterns—and Expressing—transcending my “oh shit moments,” my negativity, and my fear nakedly trusting that not only can I choose to connect in spite of these emotions, but even because of them.
And I return to the present—I’m hearing the music, my fingers know exactly where to go.
The music penetrates through the clouds of my thought.
Later that night, I mention the seventy-fifth value from Kāli’s book– “Value #75 Recognizing when you are being curious and when you are being skeptical.” We begin to discuss what it means to Doubt.
I recall my teacher Rabbi Mendel’s lesson the past weekend that everything else—anger, fear, cowardice– can be elevated to a level of holiness, coldness, doubt and indifference cannot.
Our friend John contributes: “I believe that everything has a sacredness to it. Even doubt. It must be played with carefully though, like fire.”
We begin to chart in red and black ink on a piece of paper how Doubt intersects and interacts with all of our thoughts and feelings—with Love, with wanting, with choices, with regret and fear and anger.
K: The process begins with a love. There is a desire, a wanting to be somewhere. An excitement: maybe a class, a project, a relationship.
J: Then a commitment is made.
K: Now things get interesting! The thing, whatever it is, isn’t what we thought it would be— It never is!
J: It’s a type of an ‘Oh Shit’ Moment
K: Exactly! Now Doubt enters. It says, maybe I shouldn’t have made that commitment after all. Now all kinds of things can happen. It’s like a marble rolling downhill.
J: Right. We can go into regret. I made the wrong choice. Or fear. I can’t do this! Or even anger. It’s someone else’s fault that this isn’t what I thought it would be!
K: It’s important to remember too that all of those mental paths— regret, anger, fear— negate the fact that choices are still happening. We still choose to be wherever we are—at least most of the time! To deny that is to take away our own agency.
J: But wasn’t a commitment made? Let’s say with a class—once drop/add period is over, there’s no choice about it.
K: Yes, but even a commitment is a continuous process. We can, at least in the physical world leave at any moment. There might be consequences to that choice—dropping a class, or exiting a relationship, but the fact remains that we have to choose every day to continue to commit to whatever we are doing. It can be a passive choice, or it can be active. Noticing the difference is powerful in and of itself.
J: So after Doubt kicks in, what do we do?
K: Well, I think there’s an alternate path to Regret, Fear or Anger. It’s the path of curiosity and of listening. Just noticing our doubt, being curious and respectful of it, not trying to get it to go away, and then continuing to just keep listening to whatever is happening in the present moment.
K: We can look at the role of Compassion and Creativity here too. It takes a lot of compassion to be curious and respectful of our doubt. It takes a lot of creativity to deal with the uncertainty of things not being quite the way we thought they would be.
Kāli remarks, upon looking at our work, “It’s interesting how, looking at this, you can see that all of these words— confusion, regret, fear, anger and doubt—are really just Love in disguise. All of those emotions began with love— they are now just hidden.”
As we continue our journey, stepping into the vast uncertainty, scariness and doubt of a 10,000 mile trip around the country, I commit to continuously embracing my not-knowing with openness, curiosity and courage— and to look within my fear, uncertainty and doubt for hidden sparks of love.