In his New York Times column earlier this week, “The Building Blocks of Learning”, David Brooks references author Paul Tough’s new book, “Helping Children Succeed.” According to Brooks, Tough cites the work of researchers as he asks how we can improve students’ non-cognitive skills – those things students get from love and attachment, and that are necessary before anything else can happen. Brooks says we have to create a “culture of belonging,” and concludes:

 “Social policy has to find a hundred ways to nurture loving relationships. Today we have to fortify the heart if we’re going to educate the mind.” 

We’ve heard that in a theater in Russia, the actors, before taking the stage, turn to each other and say, “I love you and forgive you everything.”

As ensemble Teaching Artists in the intergenerational interactive participatory dance, music and story work of Kairos Alive!, this is the love and trust we attempt to maintain and enjoy among ourselves, and to extend to all those we invite into the dance, music and story circle – especially elders. We feel this love, trust and safety is necessary to feel a sense of agency, to take personal and artistic risks toward the creation of meaningful and enjoyable community performance works and to promote the physical, emotional and social health benefits of this participation.

Brooks noted how the ancient Greeks had many different words for different kinds of love, and says love got “amputated” from European cultures by Enlightenment philosophers. Without assigning blame, I would argue that there are cultures of nuance, both ancient and current, other than the Greeks, worth wondering about. But, yes, as far as we’re concerned, love is it.

In his book, “The Soul’s Code,” psychologist James Hillman described how important writer Truman Capote considered his high school teacher Catherine Wood to be to his believing in himself as an artist. Hillman explains how Wood talked about what she loved about Truman; his talent and quirky humor, yes, but also, importantly, aspects of his physical presence – the look of his eye, set of his jaw, his carriage and sandy hair. For Wood, love wasn’t vague, but very specific. And this was the love, says Hillman, with the power to beckon the artist.

At both the beginning and end of Kairos Alive! Dancing Heart™ interactive dance and story sessions, we have a ritual of greeting each participant personally, shaking their hands and welcoming or thanking each of them. This is a welcome into safety, respect and love, and possibilities of collaborative arts creation, with the expectation that the person whose hand we are shaking – firm, soft, padded, thin, floury, starchy; and into whose eyes we are looking – blue, brown, grey, arched, relaxed; may thrill or inspire us at any moment. It is a thank you for and celebration of what we’ve created together, their particular social and artistic contributions – movement, song, story, laugh, tear; and the sharing of their individual essence.

Yes, in love and safety, and with the expectation of being received with delight, understanding and celebration, we risk, grow and create. Love is it!

– Cristopher Anderson, Kairos Alive! Associate Teaching Artist


Featured Image Credit to Darin Back

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