I went to the Explorer of the World playshops. It was the 2nd one of the four. As was the first one, it was an inspiring and fun experience.
The highlight of the first part was to do an improvisational theatre. In the dark room with the lights out, we had a short meditation and then engaged in acting in a minimal plot given – to protect and deliver our treasure to a safe place in an adverse environment – in silence. The second part was to engage in close observation of objects. Both activities were followed by time dedicated to documenting the experience.
Each activity was interesting and inspiring on its own account. But I thought it was very interesting to have them together in one session as we could see and feel what one activity highlights in the other, how they complimented and contrasted each other.
When I heard we were going to engage for next 15 minutes in observing an object, my immediate reaction was ’15 minutes?!, can I get through 15 mins just looking at a still thing without seeking for distraction elsewhere?’ But it turned out to be an absorbing 15 minute and not enough!
And I really enjoyed the experience followed. After the time was up and the time for documentation passed, we naturally gathered around the table with each object with spotlight and magnifying glasses to share each other’s observation. I felt the space around us stopped being a lecture room in a grey institutional building but transformed into a wonderland filled with things containing unique and wondrous stories and potentials. A ‘wonderland’ may sound fictitious or fantastical but it felt as real as any reality, created and shared by us together.
I’m wondering though, this time the objects were things found in a natural environment, such as shells, pebbles and pieces of wood washed ashore on beaches. They are more or less outside our daily contacts and can appear to be already pretty fascinating. Would we get immersed like this with objects so ordinary and familiar in our lives in the same way? A tea spoon, a biro pen, an eraser… I think it’d be fun to try and see how our perception works!
For me the experience at the playshops has become a gateway for the world I thought I entered long ago. It gives me a practical tool for discovering and opening up space in my everyday life that I thought never existed. It encourages me to be more aware about things around me. It also makes me more inquisitive about patterns of my own perception and makes me want to play with them. I’ve started to notice a fluid state of the world about and around me. It felt very wired at first! My past is fluid. My identity is fluid. My reality is fluid. And I’ve realised I was trying to go against its fluidity, fix it and cling onto it to make it fit in the same contexts or conditions every time things happen.
Close observation on things destabilises such cemented reality. For example when I see rain drops hitting against a bus window, I can either let myself immersed with observing how each drop touches the glass, how some bits hang, how some dissolve and how each drop behaves differently and leaves unique marks (there is so much to see in this!) or I can take it as ‘damn. Rain again’ with a quick glance. Now how about sound of birds chirping in early morning (oh no morning already), sight of bare branches of tree (winter), sight of graffiti (socio-economic background of the area), a certain accent or language from overheard conversation (stereotyping) etc etc.
I guess seeing what’s before us in the same context every time can lead to distilling reality to ‘what it means to me’ (or whether it’s good or bad to me). This way of engaging seems a bit like that of utilitarian. But that’s missing out so much! And if you still want to take an utilitarian approach, it’s not good either because you don’t want to miss out but get the most out of your life.
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