By Jake Sapon, CC Storyteller
Seen through the lens of CC value 44: Sharing what you believe and believing in what you share…
Up until this point, I have written little about our gatherings—the book readings, community potlucks, and musical performances that have been the heart of our tour.
It’s been far easier to talk about my own learning, growth, and experience than to reflect on the ways that we might, in turn, be affecting others. Though I can feel in my gut that I am making a positive impact in the world through this journey and these sharings, I don’t know—at least not in exact, precise terms– what that impact is. Part of me is afraid to even express my hope that what I am doing is making a difference, for fear that I might be judged as grandiose, or naïve to think that something as simple as gathering 20 people in a room and sharing music, food, and stories could change the world.
My dream is that through these gatherings we can inspire the people we are with. This word literally means, “to inhale.” The interesting thing about inspiration is that every exhale that follows an inhale is unique in its character, its length, and its force—it may be a sigh of pain or of pleasure or of release, or simply a slow, and controlled exhale of letting go. In other words, one can never completely know what the ripple of effect will be from a moment of “inspiration.”
In some ways this is daunting and intimidating— how do I believe in what I am doing if I cannot see its immediate effect? This sort of work seems very different than my work on the Blue Ridge Parkway last summer, constructing a bridge that I could see and touch and stand upon, work where I concretely felt the impact of my actions. Conversely, on this tour, we do the work of planting seeds that may take time to grow, or may lay dormant in the ground for a very, very long time—seeds of community, personal growth, and awakening. If we are lucky, we may see seeds germinate before our eyes, magical sprouts of green, as if in stop-motion photograph played at 10 times the speed, shooting towards the sky.
I do not know the effect of each gathering on any given person or community, but I do know that preforming and facilitating these gatherings has affected me. I have a certain faith in the karmic corollary to Newton’s third law— that every action has a reaction, and if I feel touched or changed, others are feeling something too. These actions and reactions may take place in the world of thought and emotion, but that makes them no less real. I know that I affect the world, because I too, am affected.
I am affected by watching community form. In Kansas City, a community of artists and performers talked about meeting regularly for artists “salons.” In Santa Barbara, a group of faculty in the same department at USCB began to envision gathering together more often. In Philadelphia, our hosts met their neighbor for the first time, who, while walking down the street, was drawn to join our music, food, and storytelling.
I am affected and inspired by hearing people’s stories. After Kāli reads a story, we often open the room up for discussion—How did you relate to what you just heard? The story, ”Remember Where You Came From: Land and People,” consistently brings out shared experiences in the room.
We learn, in Kansas City, that one guest had been an audience member at the others show some 20 plus years before, in Scottsdale, that a large percentage of the room has more than 5 siblings, and in Santa Barbara that three people had grown up around the same town. The forging of these commonalities feels delightful. We’ve heard stories of angels on the road in Farmington, close connections with Elders in Durham, ways of coping with death and grief in Scottsdale, and of a magical visit from a morning bluejay in Kansas City. More than performing, I love when communal space opens up to connection through story—each story not belonging to any one person, but to a shared experience of being human.
Our true exchange is not money, but rather story. This we must remember.
I am inspired by music—both preforming and listening. Each experience of playing—especially when I preform original music—is vulnerable, exhilarating, and terrifying. When we begin to play, I can sometimes feel the atmosphere of the room change. Sometimes I only notice one person smiling and tapping their foot, and this connection feels like enough. In Sedona and Kansas City, Kāli’s poem called Befriending Your Fears, inspired not only discussion but also music—beautiful original songs by guests and hosts of the gathering. In Scottsdale, when we played, a little boy could not help but to reach out a hand to dance.
These gatherings leave me feeling nourished at every level—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Food fills my stomach, community and connection fills my heart, and new stories and thoughts fill my mind.
And this nourishment, in turn, gives me the strength to continue to believe in our work, to trust that others too, may be nourished and inspired by this process of gathering together to eat, to listen, to play, and to celebrate.
How do you continue to believe in your work?
What lets you know that you are making a difference in the world?