One Crazy, Holy, Evening
Humans have a lot of basic needs you wouldn’t necessarily think about unless someone pointed them out. For instance, humans need stories. We do not just like stories. We need them. We cannot live without sleeping. We cannot sleep without dreaming, and we only dream in stories. So you see, the need for story is downright physiological.
We also need people, tribes to be exact. The most basic social unit, the one that guarantees the survival of our species, is not the nuclear family. It is the tribe. Yep, being a Mets fan might be important to your survival. Well all right, that might be a bit of a stretch. But we do need to belong to a group of like-minded pilgrims.
I stopped going to church after I was let go from all of the Christian organizations with which I worked. (I call those days my “Once Before a Time.” This period of my life I call “Once Upon a Time.”) But in the process I lost my tribe. My first Sunday back brought great tears and satisfied a deep longing. We all need a tribe with a great story. Which brings me to Friday evening, July 24, 2015.
The people at Rebel Storytellers and Rebel Pilgrim Creative Agency are a varied bunch of wildly creative, intelligent outcasts, misfits, nerds, and the like. They are my kind of people. Among other things, they make videos and feature films, produce podcasts, run a delightful website, help corporations tap their creative core, and put on live shows. Their offices are on the 13th floor of the original Proctor and Gamble headquarters in beautiful downtown Cincinnati. Crisco shortening was dreamed up where they practice their art.
Last year they started doing shows with Joe Boyd, their CEO. From soap operas to sermons to improvisational comedy, Joe is a seasoned performer. He does one-man shows on books of the Bible. Not what you think. They are quirky and thought provoking and delightful. But last Valentine’s Day they invented a new kind of variety show – not exactly Ed Sullivan – not exactly Jimmy Fallon – something different. They did it again on July 24. This time the subject was Heroes.
The evening consisted of seven speakers, each with 10 minutes to tell whatever story he or she wanted to share. Interspersed were segues by a terrific band and three great improvisational sketches. Stories were about a dog named Miss Jackson, a bad uncle with a big heart, a father who put a lawn chair in a one-seat car, another father’s tribute to his remarkable daughter, a granddaughter’s memories of her grandpa, a Peace Corps’ worker’s moving tribute to her hero, and a transgender woman who took a big risk (that would be me.) The evening went from laughter to tears to laughter to tears to… you get the idea. No speaker knew what anybody else was going to do, yet it all fit together as though crafted by the Holy Spirit. Yeah, the Holy Spirit.
There was a bar and beer and people with various and sundry sexual and gender identities and when the whole thing was over, the only words I had to describe it were “transcendent” and “holy.” Brad Wise put the show’s sequence together, and his instincts were perfect. When the evening was over I told Brad and Joe how moved I was. Without the tiniest bit of irony Joe said, “It was church. This was church.” And you know what? It was. A group of people joined together in common cause to produce the miraculous. A tribe of outcasts creating an experience that was good and true and holy. I was honored to be a part of it.