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Merry-Makers Around The World

Posted on: June 28, 2009
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Every culture and tradition around the world has masks, costumes, dances, puppets, and ceremonial characters that teach or bring meaning to the community. In most circumstances, these are not considered “performances” to be watched, they are considered “sacred” or “ceremonial” aspects of life that the whole community participates in the magic of creating. Carnival, Halloween, Feast of Fools, Day of The Dead, are a few modern festivals that are rooted in this ancient and tribal heritage.
Everyone knows what it is like to put on a mask or a costume and allow yourself to become someone or something different. The human psyche is complex and social conventions/restrictions often do not allow for the range of emotional expression and freedom that is necessary for a healthy life.
Universal archetypes abound, but the clown/trickster/fool seems to be the best qualified to transcend cultural boundaries. The reason for this is that culture maintains itself by enforcing traditional ways that often become rigid and closed systems. Culture clash and war often occurs because of ethnocentrism, when people can not see beyond their own culture. However, in order to keep traditions alive (and probably to keep our species alive), sometimes traditions have to be broken, and the clown/trickster/fool is the universally accepted tradition breaker. Since breaking traditions is a sensitive issue, these characters need to be accompanied by laughter, merry-making, and much beauty and color. Often the laughter is created by some foolish and humbling quirk that makes the character love-able and almost human. Wether it is slipping on a banana peel, or being covered with mud, these characters have the ability to turn sorrow to joy, and anger to laughter.
As our world gets smaller, as people begin to awaken to the fact that there are many cultures and many ways to see the world and experience life, we are all humbled to recognize that each is valid. In many ways, we are all fools to have thought our way was the only way, or the best way. True wisdom comes from accepting that each culture has something universal and valuable to teach us all about who we are. Everyone throughout the world knows what it feels like to be sad, angry, lonely, to laugh, to celebrate life, and to make merry in spite of life’s struggles.
The Giggle Bubble Dreams Book teaches the importance of this cultural history that all humans share, and encourages readers to participate and make the stories live once again. When Giggly Sprout and Gumbo Wobbly come to earth at the end of the story, they invite everyone on a journey to discover the connections in nature and across cultures that have been forgotten. Thus begins the journey from The Forgotten Chapter into The Age of Living Folklore.
Enjoy films on this site that show Giggly and Gumbo interacting with different cultures, exploring universal themes and making stories come alive through puppets, masks, community-collaborations, and merry-making!

Traditional Wisdom & New Education Models

Posted on: June 8, 2009
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Oral Tradition Cultures understand that life, itself, is the greatest teacher. Children learn through doing, whether it is skinning a deer, making beadwork for a pow-wow, or  helping grandma make tortillas, children are engaged in learning as a part of their culture. Modern educators have coined this type of learning “experiential learning” as if it were a new concept. The notion that learning is for a classroom, or lives solely between the pages of a book, is exactly the reason that kids often shut off to the concept of learning. Learning becomes associated with being forced to do something that children have no interest in doing.

As educators, we can not throw the answers out before the questions have been asked. How do you cultivate curiosity in kids, and lead them to the questions, and the desire to learn?

Have you ever wanted to do something, but didn’t know how to do it? What better incentive is there to learning something new than knowing it will help you attain something that you want to accomplish?

Invite children to dream about what they may do when they grow up. Invite them to dream about how they might change the world and make it a better place, and you begin to empower them to explore the questions themselves. Invite them to help you solve a problem and you are giving them the respect that makes them feel like they can accomplish anything.

Today, we have more opportunity than ever to make learning a way of life through collaborations between teachers, parents, artists, technology, and the internet.

One example is a project that brought video cameras and computers to an indian reservation. Some of the traditional elders were opposed to bringing this “new” technology to their community. Many of the kids were no longer interested in the old stories, or the traditional language and culture because television had influenced their community with pop-culture. Shortly after the kids got ahold of the cameras, and editing equipment, they began to think of where to find the most interesting stories to tell/document. Where did they go? To their most respected traditional elders! The technology assisted in sparking pride and curiosity about their own culture. The end result was something that was educational and fun across generations.

In the old days, library research was at the foundation of school learning. Now days, Google has replaced the card-catalogue. How interesting is a geography book once you have played with Google-Earth? B-O-R-I-N-G…

Teachers who innovate in the use of media, technology, and experiential learning are shaping the classroom of the future. Parents who challenge their kids by asking them to google a good cake recipe, or find an online video that shows how to fix a leaky faucet, are bringing practical skills into their home while empowering their kids to be problem solvers. Artists who make their work available across multiple platforms, and share their creative process with children can take the pressure of perfection out of the equation, and allow kids to explore their imagination and celebrate their mistakes as much as their successes.

This is community learning, this is traditional wisdom and new education models merging with technology and the arts. This is what we call Living Folklore, making the dream and the stories come alive in a creative and educational way that engages people across generations and cultures. No longer can we afford to alienate, exclude or passively watch, NOW is the time to include, embrace, and encourage participation.

The ancient and the modern worlds have a place next to each other at the feast that celebrates our shared global future. Let’s dig in!

Making The Connection

Posted on: June 7, 2009
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(Previously published in Synchronicity Magazine, Conscious Creatives, & Green Museum)

What is the source that feeds your creative expression, and what offering do you give in return?

Create Beauty

Create Beauty

Indigenous People all over the world have a profound understanding of reciprocity. In the Americas, after taking the life of an animal, berries, or water from a spring, a pinch of tobacco and a prayer are offered in return.

An awareness of the reciprocal nature of creative inspiration and creative expression brings depth and meaning to the artistic process as well as the end product. The creative process helps students feel connected to an endless web of relations, and relationships both external and internal. Within this “dialogue of The Muses”, comes a challenge and responsibility to give back to the web of life in a conscious and honorable way.

Most people know what it feels like to take a moment before a special meal to give thanks for the soil, the sun, the rain, the farmer, the truck driver, the grocer, and all the hands that went into preparing the meal. It is hard not to enjoy a meal that has been given this kind of attention/intention. I like to look at the artistic process in this same manner. The tree that gave itself to the handle of my paintbrush, the ones who harvested the cotton for a costume that I sew, the fire that melted the glass beads that adorn the costume, and so on; these unseen hands, and elements are co-conspirators in my creative process, they inform my inspiration. Then there are the not-so-earthy materials I use, like foam, glue, and certain kinds of paint, that have been created at a cost to healthy rivers and clean air. Bringing awareness to these shadowy aspects of my creative process makes me feel compelled to create something of exquisite beauty. Knowing that what I create may never equal what I have taken keeps me humble and connected within this web. Never above, never below, I am just part of a web that is sharing in the inspiration of the creative process.

I like to consider how the past, present, and future are captured in a timeless and organic moment while I work. I believe that there is an implicit quality to art, and therefore I hold an intention that my work will somehow touch and open people’s hearts and share the inspiration that gives me so much joy.

When I consider applying this philosophy to media, the web of connections, and potential grows tremendously. Have you ever considered giving thanks to the rocks and minerals that have been ground-up, and heated with flame to be soldered to the mother-board of your computer for the sake of transmitting light and information? When considering the impact that our technological world is taking on our natural environment, I feel that we have a responsibility to use these technological tools for their highest potential. If we are lucky, media may one day live up to it’s potential to inspire, delight, educate, and heal our planet and communities.

Can we settle for anything less?

By bringing an awareness to the tools that we use to create art and media, we empower ourselves to use these tools in a way that gives back to the source of inspiration. In doing this, we empower the tools to live up to their highest potential as well. It is easy to over identify with the tools and the process and forget that each of us has a heart beating in the middle of our chest. We do little to honor the web around us when we aren’t listening to this internal drumbeat.

Take a moment, look around you, give thanks for the web of relations past, present and future and ask yourself what kind of creative offering you’d like to give in return. 

People Hate Clowns

Posted on: June 5, 2009
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and people love them! High emotional charge surrounds clowns. Some fear or laugh at them, and some say that clowns make them sad or angry…
Clowns are primarily emotional beings, and peoples’ responses to this universal archetype are often similar to their own level of comfort and response to emotions in general.
In ancient times, the white-face came from ashes, and the clown often represented death. The clown was seen as a ghost, or someone who had returned from the afterlife and was no longer bound by the rules of society.
The notion of mortality can be both scary and also liberating. By recognizing that you only have so much time to be alive, you can be inspired to live more fully, to make more friends, to create something of beauty to leave in your wake, and to treat each moment of life as a gift and a blessing.
Modern society seems to be narrowing the scope of emotions that are acceptable publicly. Laughter and anger seem to top the charts. New research is starting to show the importance of having an open acceptance of all emotional seasons. This is called “Emotional Intelligence”, and it is the result of an understanding of how damaging repressed and denied emotions can be.
Like nature itself, emotions are often irrational, wild, and hard to control, but they are an essential part of being human. Emotional Intelligence, which is necessary for compassion and empathy, is often more important to success than traditional book-smarts.
Clowns can be a wonderful reflection through which humans project parts of their own unconscious, thus bringing up deep feelings.

Oftentimes parents are so excited to get a picture of their child with a clown, that they place the kid in the clowns arms without noticing that the child is terrified. These “implicit” memories can stay with a person for life. Then there is the mean clown who uses a child from the audience to be the butt of his jokes, or the emotionally needy clown who chases and tries to hug kids that are afraid of him/her. No discussion of the topic would be complete without mention of clowns in horror movies, and nightmares.

So, yes, there are many reasons that clowns are hated, and loved. Clowns may be called imaginary characters, but the feelings they provoke can be very real.

How do you respond to clowns? Is it a reflection of how you respond to people who are different than you? Is it a reflection of how you feel about the mysterious world of your own irrational emotions? Do you push these feelings away, or embrace them?
With full acceptance and compassionate embrace for what it is to be human, and without judgment for any naturally felt feeling, a clown is like the child within us that is often neglected and misunderstood. If you have felt your feelings stir, then the clown has done his job!

Perhaps this ancient and mysterious character still has something to teach us in this modern world that has little room for the unknown, the wild, and the irrational…