“In every world traveler lives an agoraphobic homebody
In every well-known performer such unrelenting stage fright
In every tightrope walker or skyscraping window washer a fear of heights so vast
There also lives a love so great
For the world
That the merge their love and fear into wonder
Somehow managing to majestically soar on"
-Kali Quinn in I am Compassionate Creativity
By Jake Sapon, CC Scribe
After 6 nights of sleeping in different beds each night, I am exhausted. Upon arriving in Fayettville, however, I have no motivation to rest, as I am immediately swept up in a whirlwind of Quinn family enthusiasm and hospitality offered by our gracious hosts John and Linsday. John offers me a choice of drinks and macaroons, and we eat a sumptuous Easter feast of roast beef, cabbage, and potatoes cooked by Lindsay. The chickens in the backyard noisily contribute to the festive atmosphere. I find myself playing Chess with John, ping-pong with Kāli, and discussing folk music with Lindsay’s brother. By the evening, I’m completely worn out, and Lindsay tells me that I should feel no obligation to socialize, and can rest in an upstairs bedroom for as long as I need. She brings me a basket of soaps, shampoos, conditioners and other toiletries collected from hotel stays over the years, and tells me to help myself to whatever I need.
Continue onto the next stop on the trip >>
By Jake Sapon, CC Storyteller
We arrive at the Howe family home, a wonderland of art, sculpture, music and warm, welcoming energy within the North Carolina forest. As we share stories from Kāli’s book and play music, we transition into an intergenerational discussion of what it feels like to be the ages that we are. The age in the room ranges from teenager to nonagenarian. We remember what it was like to be seven years old, twenty-seven years old, and talk about how we have changed and how we have stayed the same. We are served “ferment,” a delicious blend of pickles seasoned with lemon and garlic, sweet potatoes, and “noise” a blended concoction of spices and yogurt. In the morning, Sarah Howe nourishes us with a stew of greens, carrots and meat, and I talk with Sarah’s cousin David—somehow, the conversation again turns to religion. He tells me he is agnostic, that he finds great beauty and meaning in the science that somehow, wondrously, describes this world.
DC by Kali, CC Founder
Virginia By Jake Sapon, CC Scribe
We stop off the highway for gas at a rest stop. A man with white hair and piercing blue eyes approaches us and asks us if he can pet Max. Something about the way this man carries himself communicates a deep longing for connection. He goes to the ground to try to engage Max, and Max tentatively lets the man extend his hand to caress Max’s head. We tell him we are on a road trip, and he begins to tell us of all the places he has lived--- California, Wisconsin, New England, Virginia.
By Jacob Sapon, CC Storyteller
Kāli’s cousin Julie greets us joyously, and asks me to lead her family in a Shabbat dinner. We turn our cell phones off, and I lead a meditation focusing on the beauty of creation and what it feels like to emerge from a very narrow mental space. We then eat what Julie’s four-year-old son Silas declares “The Best Pizza Ever!”
It tastes amazing, somehow even better in the atmosphere of the candles, bread, wine and loving family. Silas dances the Mambo from Dora the Explorer for us, and Sydney, Julie’s seven-year-old daughter, tells us about a series of incredibly intricate dreams she has had. She then tells us that when she’s upset, she goes to her room and then either yells into her pillow or talks to God. I ask her what she means by God; this leads to Sydney explaining that when she leaves Church, she feels like a different person than she was when she went entered. Julie brings in a birthday cake, and we sing a rousing round of “Happy Birthday” to Kāli’s book, “I am Compassionate Creativity.”
By Jake, CC Storyteller
Kāli and I begin together by embarking on a silent walk, walking from Love Park down Market St. to 30th St. Station. We stop expressing and begin listening. Max (link to picture), who Kāli later remarks is always on a silent walk of sorts, begins making friends for us.
We continue in silence, but turn to face the man and smile.
He nods approvingly. “A mild mannered dog for mild mannered people.”
“His name is Max,” says Kāli.
“He doesn’t seem like a Max to me,” says the man.
“What does he seem like to you?”
“Humble. His name is humble.”
We gasp and look at each other. Our last conversation before entering silence had been about humility.
“I’ve found strength in Jesus Christ,” he says.
We smile. I notice he has a bible, and I remember that today is Easter. We tell him our names, and he tells us his.
“Where do you go to Church?” he asks, curiously.
We exchange a glance, and Kāli says, “I wrote a book about Creativity and Compassion. We’re taking it on tour on a 10,000 mile trip around the country.”
His face lights up. “I see! You are bringing the church with you!”
“May I say a traveler prayer for you?,” he asks. We nod in agreement. The three of us clasp hands and close our eyes. “Oh Lord,” he begins, “keep these travelers safe.” Perhaps there are people staring. It doesn’t seem to matter.
He hugs each of us, and we continue on in silence. I can’t stop smiling, and shaking my head in wonder and delight.
A man with a backpack approaches the van outside 30th st. station, looking to make friends with Max. He comments on our bumper—Providence to Buffalo by way of California--- and tells us that he himself is a traveler too. He hops trains to get around. We share our names with each other. Before leaving, I give him two clementine and a piece of chocolate. It’s the day after Purim, so I’m thinking about the mitzvah of giving gifts of food (Shalach Manot) that traditionally accompanies the holiday. I’m also thinking about a value we shared at last night’s gathering at the house of our host, Claire,--- giving random gifts to random people.
“I wish I had something to give you in return,” the man says. Before we leave, he runs up to the car. I roll down the window.
“Jewish,” I say, surprised.
“You can listen to books on tape, right? Check this out. I think you’ll like this. It’s called The Tao of Pooh. It’s the telling of Taoism through Winnie the Pooh.”
“I have something for you too,” Kāli says. She hands him a copy of “I am Compassionate Creativity.” “I don’t know if this will be too big for you to carry around, but…”
“Not at all!” he says. He thanks us repeatedly. As we drive away, we can see him reading the first few pages.
By Jacob Sapon, CC Storyteller/Musician
Viewed through the lens of value 74: Viewing everything as a relationship.
As we drive our 1997 Eurovan 10,000 across the country, we travel through space. This sort of travel is visible to any outside observer, especially in our brightly decorated vehicle, and can be easily articulated in terms of locations and mile markers-- we have covered, so far, over 2,500 miles and 14 states.
At the same time, we have been traveling on an inner journey. This journey has taken place only within our own heads, hearts, and stomachs— a journey difficult to see and harder to explain. Each place we visit brings us into relationship with our memories, the people in our lives, and ourselves.
I did not expect when visiting St. Louis to feel so acutely the loss of my grandmother, who I would have loved to call and tell her about my visit to her hometown. I did not expect when visiting Providence to find myself so thoroughly engaged with the myriad memories and interpersonal relationships that made up my last two years of college. I did not expect to find in a small town in Kansas a whole new way of understanding the human capacity for random acts of kindness.
I did not fully expect that being on the road every day would bring me into a far more intimate relationship with fear, specifically my fear of highway driving.
I did not anticipate finding so many reasons to fall in love with the world in the way we have been taken care of and inspired by the people we have met: auto mechanics in Lexington, Kentucky, a man who prayed for us on the street in Philadelphia, students in Denver, family in Fayetteville, Lexington, New York, Kennett Square and Baltimore, children and animals, strangers and close friends.
I did not realize the extent to which every moment of doubt or exhaustion would challenge me to root myself into the best ways I know to take care of myself and the commitment I made upon starting this journey to constantly look for the joy present in all situation.
We may be able to predict where exactly we will be in terms of our outer journey—L.A on the 18th of April, San Francisco on the 28th, Buffalo on the 21st of May. Yet the inner journey is by its very nature, turbulent and magical, filled with delight and challenge—a colorful, constantly shifting canvas of experience, emotion and thought that can never be fully anticipated.
This inner journey is deeply personal, yet has the potential to exist in connection with everyone in the world. The fear I feel comes from the same fear as all the fear that ever was. The love I feel comes from the same love as all the love that ever was. Each experience on this journey plants seeds that can, with care, grow into empathy and connection.
I cannot predict where this inner journey will lead me. I can only choose to engage with and learn from each moment as it comes, take a breath, and enjoy the ride.
What are the five relationships that you are prioritizing at the moment?
What is an inner journey that you are currently traveling? With what or whom does it bring you into relationship?
By Jacob Sapon, CC Storyteller
Seen through the lens of value #75: Recognizing when you are being curious and when you are being skeptical.
Remembering Kāli's teaching from Clown Class:
“Oh Shit moments” happen when we end up somewhere we didn't intend on being. We spill something, we’re stuck in traffic, we hear bad news. In these moments instead of imploding and becoming a tiny contracting little ball of “Oh Shit, oh shit, oh shit!!” how can we find a way to breathe and say, "Ahhh! Interesting"? In this way, we create space, wake up to the present, see what new opportunities are around us, and play forward.?
So everyone now try that--- put that “Oh Shit” moment inside your body, spin around, create space, and turn it into an…. “Interesting!” Celebrate not knowing what to do next!
Providence, RI: The first gathering:
The room is filled with curious anticipation—twenty-five loving faces arranged in a circle wondering what will happen next. The energy of the room is that of collective inhalation—wondering, waiting. Curiosity and openness.
Kāli will read stories from her new book, I am Compassionate Creativity, and we will play music, melodies and harmonies on the fiddle and guitar.
My guitar is in my hand; I find the feel of the strings on my fingers comforting.
I was not nervous, but now upon hearing the sound of my finger lightly touch the high E string, I realize that it is out-of-tune. There is no time to tune -- Kali is reading, our guests absorbing.
And Doubt begins to creep in to my thoughts. At first, the doubt is entirely concerned with the present moment, the right now. What if I haven’t practiced this enough? I’ve never played with someone else in front of an audience before. What if they aren’t connecting with the stories?
Gathering speed, the marble of doubt rolls faster and faster.
Doubt gains momentum. What if they think what we are doing is cheesy? What if it doesn’t mean anything to them? Are they judging me?
Doubt becomes worry, distant and detached from right now-- What if this group of people is connecting, but others won’t?
Yet as the music begins to play, my fingers acting on long-embedded muscle memory, countervailing forces play at the fringes of my consciousness, steadily gaining strength.
“Shema” means “listen!” It is the Hebrew word that begins the most central and essential prayer of the entire Jewish tradition.
It requires creativity to continue to listen to the music as it is played, to realize that, surprisingly (Discouragingly? Interestingly? Excitingly?) I have absolutely no idea whether or not we are playing together, and to smile into the void of my fear and just keep listening.
I recall from Kāli’s class the difference, as a clown, between Imploding—becoming stuck in my own thought-patterns—and Expressing—transcending my “oh shit moments,” my negativity, and my fear nakedly trusting that not only can I choose to connect in spite of these emotions, but even because of them.
And I return to the present—I’m hearing the music, my fingers know exactly where to go.
The music penetrates through the clouds of my thought.
Later that night, I mention the seventy-fifth value from Kāli’s book-- “Value #75 Recognizing when you are being curious and when you are being skeptical.” We begin to discuss what it means to Doubt.
I recall my teacher Rabbi Mendel’s lesson the past weekend that everything else—anger, fear, cowardice-- can be elevated to a level of holiness, coldness, doubt and indifference cannot.
John, Kāli’s partner, contributes: “I believe that everything has a sacredness to it. Even doubt. It must be played with carefully though, like fire.”
We begin to chart in red and black ink on a piece of paper how Doubt intersects and interacts with all of our thoughts and feelings—with Love, with wanting, with choices, with regret and fear and anger.
K: The process begins with a love. There is a desire, a wanting to be somewhere. An excitement: maybe a class, a project, a relationship.
J: Then a commitment is made.
K: Now things get interesting! The thing, whatever it is, isn’t what we thought it would be--- It never is!
J: It’s a type of an ‘Oh Shit’ Moment
K: Exactly! Now Doubt enters. It says, maybe I shouldn’t have made that commitment after all. Now all kinds of things can happen. It’s like a marble rolling downhill.
J: Right. We can go into regret. I made the wrong choice. Or fear. I can’t do this! Or even anger. It’s someone else’s fault that this isn’t what I thought it would be!
K: It’s important to remember too that all of those mental paths— regret, anger, fear--- negate the fact that choices are still happening. We still choose to be wherever we are—at least most of the time! To deny that is to take away our own agency.
J: But wasn’t a commitment made? Let’s say with a class—once drop/add period is over, there’s no choice about it.
K: Yes, but even a commitment is a continuous process. We can, at least in the physical world leave at any moment. There might be consequences to that choice—dropping a class, or exiting a relationship, but the fact remains that we have to choose every day to continue to commit to whatever we are doing. It can be a passive choice, or it can be active. Noticing the difference is powerful in and of itself.
J: So after Doubt kicks in, what do we do?
K: Well, I think there’s an alternate path to Regret, Fear or Anger. It’s the path of curiosity and of listening. Just noticing our doubt, being curious and respectful of it, not trying to get it to go away, and then continuing to just keep listening to whatever is happening in the present moment.
K: We can look at the role of Compassion and Creativity here too. It takes a lot of compassion to be curious and respectful of our doubt. It takes a lot of creativity to deal with the uncertainty of things not being quite the way we thought they would be.
Kāli remarks, upon looking at our work, “It’s interesting how, looking at this, you can see that all of these words--- confusion, regret, fear, anger and doubt—are really just Love in disguise. All of those emotions began with love--- they are now just hidden.”
As we continue our journey, stepping into the vast uncertainty, scariness and doubt of a 10,000 mile trip around the country, I commit to continuously embracing my not-knowing with openness, curiosity and courage--- and to look within my fear, uncertainty and doubt for hidden sparks of love.