Coming to Our Senses, Together, Again

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

As we slide into our 16th month and second summer in the Coronaverse, I find myself sniffing at the edges of our Zoom screen, yearning for a visceral communion, a Coming to our Senses, Together, Again.

These musings rooted in earth are symbolic images I offer as we come back together, embodied. For some of you, coming back together may still be unimaginable, a long way off. For others, you are beginning to experiment and play. 

I miss the deep communing together

the ritual, the unknown, the mystery,

the rooting and grubbing around,

the animal noises, and the snaky moves,

the pulsing together,

the breath 

As we enter our 6th Covid season together (spring, summer, fall, winter, spring, summer) how do we want to be together? 

As I begin to imagine working in an embodied way with people, organizations, and communities, I want to center the physical wonder of coming back together, the glee of sharing our senses, the mourning of the profound losses and deprivation we’ve endured, the mystery of feeling our bodies being in one place, together, again. 

I thirst for gathering,

for something

magical, fecund, beckoning,

titillating, risky, absurd 

Imagine an activity called Rooting Around:

Go to a place with earth, fresh air.

Dirt. Roots. Grubs.

Root around.

Commune.

Breathe.

Share something you found, noticed, learned, spent time with.

Don’t use words.

Share through your grunts, sniffs, gaze, movement. 

The morning after our Passover Seder in March, I woke up dreaming for a Seder of the Senses, a collective, textless communion via our orifices. The traditional Seder is layered and confusing, a mish mosh of text and ritual, masked as order, celebrating our hour of ditching Mitzraim (the narrow place). Some things we point to on our Seder table and never eat (an egg). Some beings we read about in our haggadah [1] and never see (a lamb). Some people are talked about in our oral tradition, but don’t show up in the text (Moses, Miriam).

This mish mosh masked as order is what it can feel like in organizational life, as well. 

I want a Seder, an organizational gathering, centered on our af (nose), peh (mouth), or (skin), oznayim (ears), and ayin (eyes). Our in-the-moment, collective sensemaking would be activated by the gathering’s charged objects: karpas, maror, and charoset for Seders, perhaps key values, symbols, or objects for an organization. What do you smell, taste, hear, see, remember? 

Another major inspiration for Coming to Our Senses, Together, Again is the work of The Performance Group, as documented by its director Richard Schechner in his book Environmental Theater [. Here is his description of a group-level exploration of the snout, the gut, and space: 

Everyone in a circle. In the center a basket covered with white cloth. After two minutes of silence, the cloth is taken away. The basket is full of peaches, strawberries, bananas, cherries, grapes, and blueberries. 

Everyone concentrate on the fruit. Imagine biting into it, tasting it, smelling it. Then, one at a time, performers go to the basket and using only the snout take one grape or berry. Roll it around your mouth, under your tongue; play with it as long as you can. Then bite into it, feel its juices and flavor, chew it as slowly as you can. Swallow…. 

Put as many berries and grapes in your mouth as you can keep count of. When you lose count of how many you have, bite. Let the juices run down your chin. Sit quietly. 

Look at the basket. Everyone at once, animal-like, making sounds, using only snouts, rush to the basket and take the fruit. Carry it to a safe place and eat…. 

Take in the whole scene: empty basket, white cloth, stained clothing, scatterings of fruit-leavings. 

This does not mean, of course, that I imagine in the organizational gatherings I look forward to facilitating that we are rolling in the mud, or letting the juices of berries flow down our chins, but it does mean that I want us to take seriously the gift of being together, again, in the same space. What do we want to feel together? See together? Remember together? 

Coming to Our Senses, Together, Again.

Let us gather in a field.

Real or metaphorical.

Come Close.

Sniff.

Root.

Gallop.

Cavort.

Let us stay present to the wonder of our coming back together, again.  

[1] Text used during a seder that gives it its order and both shares the Exodus narrative and directs various rituals around looking at, talking about, and eating symbolic foods.

[2] Schechner, R. (1973). Environmental Theater, NY: Hawthorn, p. 15-16.


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