by David Claunch
I have recently been fascinated with the concept of the “Now.” Eckhart Tolle has written several books on the subject with thought provoking statements like: “Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now. Nothing has ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now.” Superficially, one might think that is almost trivial in its simplicity, however as I pondered it, it had tremendous depth and wisdom. Tolle goes on to point out that all fear comes from the mind focusing on the future and all guilt and regret comes from the mind focusing on the past. Neither the past nor the future can be changed at all, only the present … the Now. I have grown to appreciate the power of staying fully present for the Now.
One of the vital functions of art is to bring people to full presence in the moment … the Now. I was watching one of the YouTube videos of a Christmas carol singing Flash Mob at a mall in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the shopping season. I saw the stressed faces of the shoppers soften and smile as they were snatched from the places their mind had them and brought fully present to the Now. As I thought about the function of art, it occurred to me that the experience of art, whether visual, performance, spoken word, or musical, requires us to be fully present in the Now.
The art experience is frequently ritualistic. We prepare for the experience by dressing and going to dinner before the theater or a concert, we get a program and sit in specific venues. All of this is preparation for full immersion in the art experience whether it is music, theater, storytelling or roaming through an art gallery. However there are other occasions when we are surprised by an art experience. These events I think of as spontaneous art. The effect is to snatch us from our minds and drop us into the moment … the Now.
I will offer three examples: First, let’s look at the street magic of David Blaine. Imagine you are rushing to dinner with friends, or going to visit a friend in the hospital, or to pick up a date, or just strolling down the street sightseeing. Street magician David Blaine approaches and offers a few minutes of mind-blowing magic. For those moments you are completely focused on the performance, everything else is gone from your conscious mind. You are totally immersed in the Now.
The previously mentioned Flash Mob at Christmas: imagine those shoppers consumed with thoughts and discussions like, “Do I have enough time to get everything done before the stores closes?” or, “What if the store is sold out?” Or even, “Should I even buy a gift for my friend since I am mad at him?” All of a sudden … did you hear that? “Alleluia! … Alleluia!…” for the next several minutes everyone is completely consumed by the music and as such the Now!’
My last example comes from my personal experience. I was part of a long line of traffic being evacuated from Virginia Beach just ahead of hurricane Irene. It was a four and a half hour stop and go journey that usually takes 90 minutes. A man drove the car next to me with three children in it. The car was stuffed with their irreplaceable possessions and necessities. His frown and white knuckles told me he was not present in the Now. He was fearful of the future with his home left behind in Irene’s path. What might become of his family if they lose everything? What was left behind that he wanted to get, but did not have enough time or space? The list could go on and on! I usually have my trusty bottle of bubbles for such traffic jams. I blew a bubble that drifted across his windshield, and instantly his face softened and he began to smile. He pointed at the bubble and the children shouted with joy! He was snatched out of the future and past and placed right here in the Now!
I believe art has the incredible power to bring people fully present for the Now. We as storytellers get to take that experience one step further, because in the experience of the Now, we create an imaginary world and take our listeners on a journey through the imagination! Whether the art experience is ritualized or spontaneous, we have the opportunity to bring folks fully present for the Now. That is both a tremendous gift and huge responsibility. I hope I use it well!
David is a retired mechanical engineer. He graduated from Old Dominion University with a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering. After 21 years working as an engineer in the construction industry his right brain demanded equal time. He went back to college and got a Masters Degree in Storytelling from East Tennessee State University. At this same time, he began studying the art of clowning and ballooning. Now he is a full time traveling storyteller, clown and balloon artist.