Musings on Bicycling and Buddhism

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rocking the Era

These are my first rough reflections upon this, which I imagine will be revised as time and introspection progress... I am also somewhat at odds trying to determine where and how it is appropriate to mention other people in a way that truly shows how wonderful and supportive they are without being presumptuous or telling stories that are not mine to tell, this will unfold with time too...

All I can say is thank you to everyone and yet still knowing that the words themselves are inadequate, hoping that the heart behind them shows through nonetheless...

I leave this weekend profoundly uplifted and profoundly humbled. This is something that I do not know if I will ever be able to properly fathom, it has a scale in my life experience along the lines of something cosmic.

I realized somewhere in the course of all this that my life view, my vision of myself, my self perception, however one should express it, was rooted in the things that I had been through that were negative, loss, death, my own battles with depression and self abuse. My sense of self has been in some ways primarily as a survivor. This month two profoundly positive and creative things happened in my life in close succession, my cousin was married and I participated in this festival. Weddings have been virtually something that I have never directly experienced in the sense of being close with anyone who was going to be married, I've seen them in movies and I've worked them- some of which have moved me but none like this and nothing to ever prepare me for this. Funerals on the other hand, sometimes it feels like I'm an old hand at those, and no one should ever feel like that- well except maybe funeral directors...?

but this festival, the journey of taiko over a year started in 2009 and culminated this weekend with our Dream Big, Change the World in Philadelphia. These 3 days felt like so much more and my world was shifted completely. I learned what true partnership and collaboration feels like- in art, in faith, in dealing with change. So much happened but I never felt alone or forgotten, only supported and cared for, and somewhere deep in my being knowing that somehow I could make a difference.

In the loading dock in practice I learned that I am always holding something back, but for what purpose? I realized that if I held back there, what would be the point, everything else was in preparation for this moment, if I held back I wouldn't be fulfilling the vow I made to finally finish something in a way that I knew I had given my all too, and so somewhere in that hot afternoon, sweating away in that hot loading dock, the concrete cavern filled with 300 taiko players, the attachment to holding back fell away and there was the drum and me and the music and the people playing the music, but they weren't separate in any way, they were all one and I knew that no part of me was wasted, that no effort i exerted would go without purpose, it felt like completion. And I finally understood that when I hold back in my life that, somehow, thinking that I am saving strength for later that I am just trying to protect something that doesn't need protecting, that it is better unleashed, living that way is being true to who I am...and so coming out of that practice with legs and arms shaking, hardly able to control my limbs was one of the most beautiful and joyous moments of my life...

And one of the most inspiring....
One of the taiko members has an allergic condition of tongue swelling which can prevent her from breathing. It seemed each time we began she had a reaction- she went to the ER twice in those first days, but she never gave up. She has had her own experience out of this which is, of course hers to tell, but that she never gave up and tried and was able to perform- that is an inspiration to all of us, and none of us will ever forget it.

At length from the beginning...

Our weekend began with a lot of surprises, out first rehearsal on Saturday morning showed us that unity is hard work. Bob, our fearless leader for 300 drummers, was calling the timing over the PA system of the stadium and we could not find a unified rhythm... it was also during this initial set up that I learned I would be playing odaiko, which was a challenge to my confidence and my strength.

We all seemed to come out of that morning's practice with a heavy weight, a why have I invested to much for this? Discussion over lunch ensued, we could practice until the cows came home but the only way this was going to work was to come back to the prime point, this was a faith activity and that was where it was going to be won. The afternoon came and we were to practice in the loading dock, a large, hot concrete cavern, just large enough to fit the 300. As behind the scenes group began to set up one of our taiko group members began to chant and it spread it a wave amongst the throng waiting to begin practice. The loading dock began to reverberate with the sound of so many voices. When set up was complete I was asked if I was still prepared to lead a warm-up, which had been discussed briefly before. (I have always been outspoken about the importance of warm-ups and returning to the basics. All my training has fostered this strong foundation.) And so with a megaphone and a dollop of courage we began. And for the first time the myriad drums began to speak with one voice.

In the course of the ensuing hours the realization I arrived at, mentioned above, came to pass. But that and the ~100 degree heat weren't it. At the beginning of the afternoon practice we learned that all of the solos, each zone was supposed to have its own mini-section in the larger arrangement, in between a united introduction and finale, were to be cut. The news had come down and we somehow had to inform everyone of this. Our fearless leader was the deliverer of news he had no say in, but his determination never wavered, his very bearing showed that this would be a victory no matter what. So despite this heavy news the afternoon in the loading dock proved to us we could play as one, even when things were not as we had hoped.

The evening's dress rehearsal left us with more uncertainty. We rehearsed with one zone solo left in, the group was not loud enough by some counts. Many others were hurt that it was not their zone's solo that was chosen. But underneath it all, its not about ego, its about uplifting people. So after rehearsal was done for the night and everyone had returned to their dorms for the night the zone leaders sat down and had a dialogue.

In the bottom of Mitten Hall, in the middle of the night we sat and talked about how to create value from all of these perspectives. From those who were hurt to those who were striving for a bigger picture. The message of unity is the most important thing. To encourage and inspire those who had come from so far to see this moment that so many had worked so hard for, that was the point. So we build a new arrangement out of the suggestions and ideas of those present, trying to represent those we had taught and played with for months. Out of this came a new song arrangement, we quickly got the news out to the other players. Each leader speaking with each taiko player to communicate the new vision.

We had no time to rehearse that new arrangement before our performance the next morning.

So we walked onstage and we began.

And we did it.

Many have commented on the unity of our performance, this is something produced through more than rehearsing, it came from the power in our lives to unify through our shared faith.

And so my life, and probably many others (?) were changed again from not being able to rehearse the changes before the performance and so going in to perform in front of 10,000 people an arrangement we had all never played together before...and doing it, and knowing it touched lives.

Goal: 2,200 miles by 9.24.10
Miles ridden to date: 663
Miles left to goal: 1,537
Days left: 58

1 comment:

  1. "And I finally understood that when I hold back in my life that, somehow, thinking that I am saving strength for later that I am just trying to protect something that doesn't need protecting, that it is better unleashed, living that way is being true to who I am."

    wow.. I love that Jessie. AMAZING. when I saw you on the Tues after this event you looked so beautiful and free. That is such a good look for you! :-) You are on the right path.. I am sure of it.



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Tour de What You Will by Jessie Calkins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License