In 2013 I commissioned work by playwrights living in Italy and the US to respond to the question of whether or not, in the world in which we live today, immigrants could cross borders, for whatever reason, as explorer’s of our world. They wrote six very different and very striking pieces in response to this question. When I pieced these works together it was important to me to show that we were all a part of one world, one tribe – the human tribe – sharing this planet.
Now, in 2016 I am compelled to re-explore this piece because of a wave of migration which no feeling person can ignore, and a wave of fear-mongering and racism which we must not ignore.
But does the title “An Explorer’s Desire” still hold for what we will be doing with these pieces in this next phase of our work?
I am currently reading Erich Fromm’s The Heart Of Man – its genius for good and evil. In his chapter on narcissism he says: “. . . Yet they hated each other, and each was passionately convinced that humanity ended at the frontiers of his own religious faith. The essence of this overestimation of one’s own position and the hate for all who differ from it is narcissism. “We” are admirable; “they” are despicable. “We” are good; “they” are evil.”
I wonder about the state of humanity now. As I have all my life from when I was very young and couldn’t bear the senseless murder of the Harp seals for their fur. I wondered what kind of people could hurt an innocent animal in such a cruel and bloody way.
As I grew, that concern went to our treatment of one another: how we can de-humanize both ourselves and ‘them’ in order to make sense of a world through the most senseless of logic. So I guess that is why I feel it is important for us to encourage “An Explorer’s Desire” when it comes to the question of immigration. We are losing curiosity in the other. We have become so fearful that we are loosing the beauty of a soul touching on all that is different, vast, unknown and waiting for us to explore like a ripening fruit or blossoming flower.
In 2013 “An Explorer’s Desire” focused on the immigrant’s ability to explore the world. To cross borders freely enough to find their home, their safety, their best piece of land to become their best self and offer it to their loved ones and the larger community.
In 2016 I think that the process of further developing “An Explorer’s Desire” will focus not on the immigrant, but on those of us who are already in our homes, on our small piece of land which we call ours and ask what do we see? What do we wish to know? Both about ourselves: the migrating history of our families, the questions we hold deep inside – and about those who are entering our space. How can we come to know their humanity? How can we courageously develop the curiosity to come to know them as a part of ourselves?
Fromm goes on beginning with a quote from the Old Testament: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” . . . (You know the soul of the stranger, for strangers have you been in the land of Egypt.) The stranger is precisely the person who is not part of my clan, my family, my nation; he is not part of the group to which I am narcissistically attached. He is nothing other than human. One discovers the human being in the stranger. . . For it means loving another human being . . . and not because he is like me.”
Theatre – at its most intimate form – allows us to forget our clan, our family, our nation and remember and celebrate our common human story. In the 6th century, we didn’t have the gift of knowing so much about each other. We were limited to our small fire pit from which we determined the truths of what we experienced. We were limited to our view. We were limited in our experience. We formed tribes for survival. For what we didn’t know ‘out there’ might truly harm us.
But to carry this perspective of holding fast to the stories of our small fire pit is what will, ultimately, harm us all. That is what Fromm believed and that is what I know in my heart. The conversation is larger, deeper, more expansive, more colorful, more textured, more difficult, more beautiful and more creative when we invite the stranger in to share their gorgeous – and horrendous – travels through our world and embrace them as our own.
Our world which will become more peaceful and habitable for everyone when we share: