The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be… The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
As I gathered friends and family on inauguration night, and banged hard on the drum and sang out loud and strong, my boys stared at me. I could feel the words they did not say — “Weirdo.” “Crazy hippie.” — but I kept on.
I’d forced them down from upstairs to participate in our “Spirit Night,” to hear the singing bowl from soul-cheering healer Phyllis Kanti Berg, and the beautiful song-leading from songstress extraordinaire Terry Radigan. I wanted them to take a roll of thin black tape offered to them from my friend, Claudia Vieira, a great Brazilian artist, and to express themselves freely on the big white rectangular paper on the floor with the map of the United States in the middle. Young Madeleine Le Du sang her heart out, and we drummed, and hummed and made noise. Guests made “God’s Eyes” out of sticks and yarn, taking a page from the Huichol and Tepehuan Indians of western Mexico to create these symbols of “seeing and understanding that which is unknown and unknowable.”
Life, after all, is a mystery, and such symbols of protection can offer solace.
The kids disappeared to their video games after a bit — before they had a chance to take a turn with the deer antler and offer up their thoughts about the present state of the world in song or spoken word. But they were there to witness the kind of “inauguration” I want to see, the new beginning filled with creativity and the power of personal expression.
In the last few months, instead of allowing myself to get despondent about the divisiveness of our country, I have been buoyed by the surge of energy for seeing and understanding things as they are, for people’s seeming interest in really delving into what’s going on versus just taking in what they can be handed easily by others. Whatever else this new dawn brings, that is the silver lining, that we recognize how each and every one of us can play a role, instead of sitting back and just listening, or watching.
I want my kids to see how important it is to gather together with friends and make music and art, to believe in and create the world they want to see for themselves and others, to sing out loud and strong about their hopes and dreams. Getting creative about our goals and aspirations without too much focus on what might get in our way toward achieving them is crucial to making dreams possible. That’s what I’m trying to model in my own neighborhood and in places that are less advantaged, and it feels more crucial than ever.