Everyone should have a personal bit of theatre.
They should have a moment or two when they are in the spotlight and they get to do and say something exceptional, something powerful.
Maybe it’s asking why this night is special, or wearing the Santa Lucia crown, but whatever it is, they need a moment out of time, when they are touched by the magic, connected with something bigger than they are.
To make that happen, the rest of us have to be an audience for them, opening the space for them to share. We need to open a moment where we admire and adore them, putting them on stage and letting them shine, opening to what they offer.
Life used to be pretty routine and boring, moving along at a regular pace. This made moments which were special stand out, stand proud, stand amazing.
Today life is filled with shiny moments, something different and novel, screens full of distractions, visual range full of ads, demands full of interruptions. Now, we often think that what we want from special times is a kind of simulation of normativity, the traditions of slowing down and just hanging. Sundays are no longer a day to gather and touch majesty, they are a day to decompress and try to recover.
How does this create special time, magical time, moments when we can feel the power flow through us as we enact the power of tradition and expression to a rapt audience?
I remember showing up in a Santa suit to a friend’s house years ago. Her kids, a third grader and a fifth grader, were way too old to believe in Santa.
The engagement in their eyes and joy on their faces when confronted with an enactment of the jolly old elf was amazing and memorable. This was magic come to life in their house and they snapped into their roles as awed kids in a heartbeat.
Sure, they asked Santa if he knew me, and I assure them that I was a fine, fine person, but being able to understand the backstage tricks we use didn’t take the excitement from the moment. It may have made it more magic, as a part of them imagined how they could also invoke Santa someday.
The biggest smile, of course, was from their mother. She saw her kids delighted and focused, reminding her of when they were younger, when they lived in a world of awe and magic. Mothers, you may know, are moved by the sight of joyous children.
Finding moments is important. I tried a Christmas moment where, before opening presents, each person in turn posed with their prettiest unopened gift and flashed their cheesiest, most excited expression. One moment to be in the spotlight, enacting joy, and the temperature in the room went up.
It’s easy to dismiss ritual from our lives, deeming it silly and not worth the effort. Why not just go casual, let off, and take it easy? After all, it won’t be very long until we have to go back into the noise and take the shiny and special as just other interruptions.
As humans, though, we need to believe that the magic of the moment can flow through us, that we can carry the spark of the eternal and the divine, whatever we deem that to be.
Maybe it is reciting the Gettysburg Address, carving the turkey at the table, or just the ritual of a graceful blessing, time out of time counts.
I grew up in a house where my mother was sure that everything was about her, where paying attention to someone else, especially someone elses emotions, just was an impossible thing. No matter how much I wanted to dramatize a moment, make it special, it was always going to be erased by the cheap and routine drama of someone else.
Feast days are the stages of our lives, moments when we come together to share the hard work of people who love us so much that they create a table full of ritual.
Not honoring those stages by opening with respect and grace seems a horrible waste.
TBB just went through a ritual day with her son as he received his Naval aviator’s wings. Her job, she knew, was to play her part in the scene, from being proud to being cool, to picking up the tab for dinner. She rose above the everyday and petty to do the bigger thing, making his personal day of theatre unique and special.
She felt good playing her part in a family event, even if a great deal of it was beaming broadly and looking so proud that she could bust. Ritual demands we play our part and often times, that is a supporting role.
A key gift I give to people I am with is putting them in the spotlight, engaging them in a way that values and respects what they are sharing with me. This focus demands that they up their own game, that they consider what they are sharing, that they take their part seriously.
That’s not something I often get back from other people. And if I don’t get it back regularly, asking for them to perform their part in ritual, passing the spotlight between us and respecting our roles is impossible.
We are all audience members, offering rapt attention, all supporting players, helping facilitate and enhance the moments of others, and all stars, with our own time to stand and share with respect and awe for what moves though us.
How do we learn, acknowledge and celebrate those roles unless we know how to be out of time and mark the special, sharing our place in ritual?
How do we become bigger and better unless we share a space for that possibility to happen?