Meet At “We.”

Many years ago I was watching Johnny direct a play. It was one of Shakespeare’s though I can’t remember which play. Suddenly, in the middle of the rehearsal, he was overcome with the recognition that he and his actors where carrying forward a tradition. They were engaged in an artistic tradition that stretches back centuries. They were carrying the torch in this lifetime so that they might pass the flame to the next generation. Johnny’s passion and recognition was infectious and his cast dawned to the reality that they were in service to something greater than their small parts in a singular production of the play. They became priests and priestesses enacting the ritual story for all ages.

They found deeper meaning to their work. It mattered. They found connection to both the past (the tradition) and the future (the legacy). Their work rippled in time and came alive in the present moment because they suddenly understood who they were relative to the past and the future. They located themselves. This play was theirs to do. Their service to the play and the tradition defined their purpose. Their art was their gift to the community and the community the served transcended time: it reached into the past and stretched into the future.

This is the purpose of the arts: to locate us in time relative to our traditions and our legacy. The arts orient us to the question, “Who are we?” The arts do not answer the question, there is no single answer, but they facilitate an ongoing conversation and exploration of what it is to be alive as a member of a community.

Artists are the keepers of the communal narrative. When the artists no longer occupy the center, the narrative dissipates and so does the society. Rules and laws can hold the pieces together for a while but disparity and self-interest are inevitable. They are harbingers of communal collapse. A common narrative is the beating heart of a healthy community.

No plant can live without it root and neither can a community. No person can prosper alone. The purpose is never the “I.” Purpose requires a target so it is by definition the “We.” Greater purpose extends to the past and the future, just as the roots of a plant reach deep into the earth while the branches and leaves reach to meet the sun. This reaching, this connection to past and future that meets and grows in the present moment defines us. It is the two directions of mattering that meets in the moment of “We.”

(895. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.)

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

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