“Hard times and funky living can season the soul, true enough, but joy is the yeast that makes it rise.”
The above quote, attributed to author Tom Robbins, is one that speaks volumes to my personal philosophy as an artist but, more importantly, as a human being. It is so easy to allow the rough and tumble nature of the world to corrupt and distort the spirit. It is also quite gratifying. We, as people, love to wallow in our own pain. There is something fulfilling to the ego when we can stew in anger over the problems that our planet faces in the current day and age and project that manic energy back out at others. It is, of course, a fleeting kind of fulfillment.
Joy, however ephemeral, has the tendency to work wonders. During this rehearsal process, I have experienced a great deal of joy. Not only in working with a group of talented artists to create a unique piece of theater, but in each of the tiny details that pepper the days. The chilled winter air as it moans through the ancient windows of the Shiloh Baptist Church. The sporadic laughter that interrupts conversation and causes the gut to tighten and twist. The smell of hand sanitizer loaded with aloe.
As a writer, the majority of my day is spent in total isolation. The glow of my laptop is my only companion as fingers dance across the keyboard, hammering out article after article on topics that bore me beyond comprehension. After a long day of the proverbial grind, it can seem like a form of punishment to stand in the grip of a cold building and put oneself through intense physical movements and vocal olympics. Joy, however, seems to negate that which could otherwise be perceived as uncomfortable.
And that is exactly what is being experienced. I dare not speak for the group, but my observations have led me to see that there is an apparent frivolity in the excitement of the process. An awe in each harmony that arises from the collective. An inspiration in watching each performer present a piece. A cameraderie. A drive. A joy.
Perhaps what I feel is completely limited by my own daily routine. We all walk this planet with our individual lenses fixed to whatever setting we find the most appealing. For some, this means viewing the world through a filter of sadness, cool blue tones raining continuously to the music of Nick Drake and Elliot Smith. Others prefer to keep vaseline on the glass, obscuring what is obvious, taking in a softened look at what would otherwise be a harsh and unforgiving landscape.
This is not to say that joy is absolutely necessary to a process, but it sure makes the entire ordeal a hell of a lot more enjoyable. EnJOYable. Eh? Eh? Whatever. The point is, no matter how difficult the day might be, how much the body and soul must go through, it can feel like a gift when there is joy present. And then, I believe, the challenge is translating that joy to the audience and sharing it with them, granting a chance to become one with the laughter, with the wind, with the aloe, with the process.