Return to Space

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

I am in the middle of a big writing project about organizational consulting that began long before the pandemic. I work on different sections, pick them up, put them down. Today I felt compelled to return to a piece I’m working on about physical space.

How bizarre to return to writing about space after a full year of socializing and working and loving within the confines of the Zoom room. The other day, my colleague Martha Haakmat realized when she was asking our client if everyone would be in the same room together that she meant sharing virtual space together. She was aghast at how the pandemic has changed her imagination.

Here I am, as I am most days, writing from my tiny little Tranquility Room, where I’ve holed up for a year, a la Virginia Woolf, using inequitably distributed resources I have access to to write and consult and journey.

View from my office
I’m not the greatest at selfies!

It is here where I’m surrounded and held by my mother’s things. It is here where I have a window to the world at large, hearing cars, ambulances, birds, fire trucks, church bells, and the occasional pedestrian. It is here where I watch trees bud, leaf, brown, and fall, where I see the sky change from grey to blue to purple. Sometimes I go down the stairs and out my front door and join in with the world at large, but I, like many, spend more hours in than out.

What does it mean to write about space in the middle of a pandemic that is forcing us to stay away from each other? I think about Prospect Park, a space that has become an enormous, muddy, healing balm to countless Brooklyners. She is well-loved, every inch known and inhabited by humans. Every blade of grass sat upon, plucked, trampled, run over, and shat on. She is well worn but not yet worn out. I think of The Giving Tree and I hope that we will not use her beyond her capacity to renew.

What does it mean for organizations and communities that we have not gathered together in person for over a year? That we have not yet returned to space? What are we not even aware of losing when we continue to meet in virtual space?

I know what it feels like for me, and I wonder if it is similar to what you feel. I feel circumscribed by a very quiet, still, invisible, impermeable bubble. My senses are drawn in. I am physically contained. And my interior world is enormous. 

Deprived of my previously taken-for-granted opportunities for novel, human, symbiotic renewal and rejuicing, I have taken to communing with trees, where I can more readily experience, these days, my luminous energy field intermingling with fellow spirits. One gift of this time is that more folks are finding more ways to commune with more types of beings.

Earlier I said that the environment is in some ways an extension of the body. It is just as true that the body is experienced as an introjection of the surrounding geography. The human being doesn’t end at the skin, and the outer world is not fenced out by the skin. Fields of energy radiate from the person and penetrate into the person. Instead of imagining the human being as a silhouette, one ought to visualize a dense convergence of energy fields, a breathing pulsar. I am not talking mysticism. Each person is in a continuous commerce with the outer world. Each person is flow. When we speak of a performer with presence, we mean someone with a highly developed sense of radiance and convergence.

–Richard Schechner [1]  

I’m not even sure how hard I wish anymore to be in an actual, tangible room, guiding a group through deep process and transformation. Maybe I myself have transformed too much. I have, by necessity, dampened down my desire for in-person facilitation, while watering the desires I can accomplish within the confines of this room. I hope that some time in the near future when we are able again to physically gather together that my little withered arm holding my organizational performance art wand will want to grow strong again, like a starfish, once cut, regenerating itself.

[1] Schechner, R. (1973). Environmental Theater, Hawthorn Books, NY, p. 91

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