POSSIBLE HUMAN, POSSIBLE WORLD
with JEAN HOUSTON, Ph.D.
JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello again and welcome. This is Jeffrey Mishlove, back with one of my favorite people, Jean Houston. Jean, as we were finishing up on the last segment, you were telling about the impact that Margaret Mead had on your life. How did you meet Margaret Mead?
JEAN HOUSTON, Ph.D.: Well, she actually invited me to create a conference with her on women's education, which we did in Bath, England. And as I observed her behavior, I was fascinated. I mean, she was doing things that I had been studying for years. She was clearly thinking in images and thinking in words. She was thinking, as we call it, kinesthetically with her whole body. She was using her dreams. She would program her dreams at night to dream about what she wanted to dream, and the next morning she would use this material. She clearly had access to all kinds of frames of mind and states of consciousness. So I said to her, "You know, you have the most interesting mind I've ever seen. I would love to study it." She says, "Well, you know, that's very interesting. All my life, all my life, people have been interested in what I think. You're one of the first to be interested in how I think, so let's do it." And so that was -- what? -- July of 1973. And then until virtually the day she died we worked together on many projects. I did study the way her mind worked, and discovered so many things -- the creation of a genius. Of course she was born with remarkable talents, but apart from that she came from a family who were almost all educators, and they felt that they knew so much about education that they refused to send her to school very much. So she was educated at homes, in terms of these new-fangled theories of Maria Montessori, and also William James, who said if you want to educate a child to the fullness of their capacity, begin by educating their percepts. So little Margaret, from the time she was a little, tiny child, was exposed to masterpieces of painting; great pieces of music -- you know, wound up on the Victrola; or interesting touches -- you know, corrugated metal, ice cream, fluffy things. And so she had this multisensory body. Years later I would say, "Margaret, where do you exist?" And she'd say, "Why, all over me, of course!" And she really was. If I say to some of my relatives, "Jasper, where do you exist?" "Why, I live in my head." If I ask my Sicilian relative, "Graziela, where do you exist?" "Ah! Right here!" Margaret: "All over me, of course!" So she was multisensory, and she was also taught to do whole processes from beginning, middle, to end, so that she would say to her mother, "Mother, would you show me how to make cheese?" And her mother would say, "Oh yes, Margaret. But you also have to watch the new calf that's about to be born." Now that's the whole process from calf to cheese. "Daddy, can I weave?" "Yes, Margaret. Let's go out and cut down several saplings and make a loom." And so she would learn to do the whole process.
MISHLOVE: The organic interconnectedness of things.
HOUSTON: Absolutely. You see, too many people today, they know the beginning of something, they know the end --
MISHLOVE: Or a piece in the middle.
HOUSTON: Or a piece in the middle. But they don't have the whole process. They have no sense of the organic unity. They have no commitment to process. So in studying Margaret's ways of working with process I began to then work to put process back into schools, so the children would learn whole process, and not just be caught in little pieces of it. That's why we put art -- in many of the schools we helped to redesign the curriculum; we would put art back into the curriculum, often as the center of a curriculum. So a child would learn to weave and also learn about fractions at the same time. A child would learn musical notation and rhythm at the same time they would learn mathematics, you see. And these children did not fail, because you can't fail when you're putting art, rhythm, music, multisensory learning, because you're operating again on many, many different kinds of mind. And the children, if they could not think, if they were not natural verbal-linear thinkers, they might be kinesthetic-musical thinkers. If they were not kinesthetic-musical, they might be visual. So if you begin to bring a child into the full domain of his or her intelligence, and teach them whole process, you generally have someone who is a very successful learner.
MISHLOVE: The view seems to be, then, that no matter how many mental blocks there might be, or inhibitions, or places where a person is shut down, there are always equally many doors that can be opened.
HOUSTON: Oh, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many more doors, you see. And it's the old, "In my father's house there's many mansions." There are many doors. There are many passageways. The brain-mind system is immensely plastic. It is extraordinarily accessible. I remember once I was invited in Brooklyn, New York to observe a team of teachers who were very good teachers, but who were working with what are called minority-group nonlearners. And I watched these teachers teach, and they were very good, but they were not reaching the children at all. And the kids went, "Aaaaahhh . . . ," you know. Well, at recess, in the schoolyard, these kids who were so bored and just not there and vacant in the classroom, when I watched them out in the schoolyard: "Hey, man . . ." "Yeah, man . . ." And they were brilliant kids. They were much smarter than I was. So I caught one of them; I said, "Hey, Tommy, what is this? Five plus three plus two." He said, "Oh man, get lost." So I said, "Hey Tommy, what is this? [clapping three, five, and two times]." "That's ten, man." I said, "Why didn't you tell me before?" He said, "Because you didn't ask me before. You thought you did, but you didn't." He was right. I was asking him a question in terms of Northern European notions of the nature of intelligence. I went home with him. His father was a jazz musician. He had learned all kinds of things, but in terms of the patterning being rhythm and music. So I went back to that classroom, and I said to the teachers, "What are they not learning?" They said, "Anything." "Well, like what?" "Well, like spelling." "Like what? Give me a word." They said, "Well, let's start with the proverbial cat, C-A-T." I said, "All right." So I got the kids up, and I had them make a C: "[Rhythmically] C [pronounced K]--C,C--C,C,C--C,C,C--C,C,C." We'd get the sound going: "A--A,A--A,A--A,A--T,T--T,T--T,T." This went on for awhile. "Now close your eyes and see the cat, see the cat, runnin' around, see the cat, chasin' around, C,C--A,A--T,T." And by God, they got cat. And you might say, what about rhododendron, you know, or a longer word? Well, it doesn't make any difference. Once the learning takes place, then the brain-mind system seeks all kinds of things to wrap itself around, and the wounded learner is healed.
MISHLOVE: It seems that in our school system we've forgotten about the body as a learning instrument.
HOUSTON: Pretty much, yes. I mean, we seem to be educating people to -- you know, the soul of a fine machine. Much of our education came out of creating situations in which people would make good factory workers -- you know, in the nineteenth century, Horace Mann essentially creating, based on the education of the Prussian officers, educating people to be on time, to be punctual, to follow directions, to do the right thing. And so the body became embalmed, as it were.
MISHLOVE: There was a notion in the nineteenth century that the body shouldn't be felt at all. If you felt your body, that meant you were sick.
HOUSTON: Unfortunately that's true. But of course what happened is that we then got an enormous amount of wounded learners. Now, the reason that that's not working and it can't work anymore, is that America has become a multicultural society. We don't have a melting pot anymore; we're not melting away people's ecstatic or cultural edges. I mean, Koreans are still Koreans, Vietnamese are Vietnamese, Hispanics are Hispanics, and we have to work with the genius of different ways of thinking and learning of many cultures, and integrate that into the schools. You know, as I said earlier, there's no such thing as a stupid child, but there are incredibly repressive, unicultural ways that children have become repressed. And this can't happen. In a multicultural society we're going to need multiple ways of learning, knowing, and doing.
MISHLOVE: Well, I guess the trick is instead of thinking of the multicultural society that we have as something that's pulling us down, as some people suggest, to think of it rather as an asset.
HOUSTON: It's an immense asset. Yes, it's thought of as being a non-asset, because we have not yet learned how to deal with it. But it is inevitable. The whole world is going to be multicultural within about a hundred years. I sometimes think, you know, that as species die off -- what are the present statistics? One every twenty-five minutes or something? -- it's almost as if human beings are creating new cultures and subcultures. Some of us are members of many cultures. You're a member of -- if I were to say, "How many cultures do you belong to?"
MISHLOVE: Possibly a dozen.
HOUSTON: Name some.
MISHLOVE: Well, of course I have my Jewish background. But I'm a member of an academic culture.
HOUSTON: All right; academic. Jewish background, Jewish culture.
MISHLOVE: Right. I'm a psychologist.
HOUSTON: Psychologist culture.
MISHLOVE: I have a specialty in parapsychology.
HOUSTON: Parapsychologist culture.
MISHLOVE: One of my great thrills is to have participated in Jean Houston's Mystery School.
HOUSTON: Mystery School culture; very definite culture.
MISHLOVE: I have a family.
HOUSTON: Family culture.
MISHLOVE: I belong to a community in California. I have a culture as a broadcaster.
HOUSTON: Broadcaster culture. So we would easily come up with perhaps a couple of dozen. And each of these cultures is feeding you. Now, the problem is -- or the great opportunity -- is how to make these different cultures mesh with another person's twelve or fifteen cultures, and at the same time have access to your own depth culture. See, many of us are foreigners to our deep culture, the spiritual culture within -- you know, what I sometimes refer to as the beloved of the soul, of the deep culture. We often have been afraid of this deep culture, in fact have said, "Here there be monsters," because we're afraid of the immense depths that are within us, the culture of our own private interior space. And that itself is both a savage and beautiful country, and it is rising up, this deep culture, all over the world. As cultures are becoming more permeable, more vulnerable to each other, the deep culture of our own interior space is rising up to give us perhaps more access to the possibles both within and without ourselves.
MISHLOVE: Well, Jung certainly talked about the collective unconscious that manifests in dreams as embodying all cultures. That's why he called it the collective unconscious. We share it together.
HOUSTON: We share it, and we seem to have very similar patterns within this depth culture. But still within each individual I find that, you know, we're not flakey, we're snowflakey. Each of us has not only unique capacities of body, mind, of intelligence. Our brains -- our brainprints, if you will -- are ten thousand times more different than our faceprints. And if we get into the deep intrastructure of our psyche, that's even much more various, while it has some commonalities.
MISHLOVE: Yes, yes. It's as if the complexity within us is so vast that we have no words or symbols even to express it.
HOUSTON: Well, the problem of course is the English language. English is a harvested language. It's not necessarily an organic language. It's a language that grows out of many different languages that came together. And English tends to take on nouns, but not verbs. Really, you know, we have very few verbs compared to others. So what we need are languages that have much greater linguistic flexibility in terms of ways and styles of being, acting, doing, having. And as we begin to get those, as I think we're going to be having in the next century, the language is going to change radically. I mean, if I were to recite for you -- would you like me to recite to you how English originally sounded?
HOUSTON: It's very different. I mean, for example, the original --
HOUSTON: Chaucer, Chaucer. Now, listen to how it sounded: "[In Middle English accent] Whan that Aprille with his showres soote / The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote, / And bathed every veyne in swich licour, / Of which vertu engendred is the flour; / . . . Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages." The rootes and the shootes -- even if you don't understand it, it rises up in the sap. I have little children in schools learning that, and then, by God, they don't fall back to: "What do you want to do?" "Oh, I don't know; what do you want to do?" Or Shakespeare's English. Now, Shakespeare's English was very flexible. "Now I am alone. / O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I! / Is it not monstrous that this player here, / But in a fiction, in a dream of passion, / Could force this soul to his own conceit," etcetera. Now, you see, that was Renaissance language. And in the Renaissance, when everything is popping out, in which the world, the golden world within is flowing into the world without, and the world is becoming psychetized with the new images of the psyche that are rising, in that, the speech patterns were so different that it was as if the head became -- the brain-mind system became a kind of sound box.
MISHLOVE: More of the brain is involved.
HOUSTON: Oh yes, when you have these tremendous sonic reaches that you find in Renaissance language; whereas in American English -- well, I once had a friend in Belgium who spoke no English at all, and I said to her in French, "Would you imitate to me what American English sounds like?" And this was what she did -- she's a good actress: "[Unintelligible mumble] Washington floating . . . push oh boy . . . but wow." Sort of a flattened out mashed potatoes.
MISHLOVE: Yes, like a constriction.
HOUSTON: A constriction, and the lack of that sonic fluidity that really activates the mind and keeps you at an edge. I always have all my students have a wonderful time with the language, and going up and down. You know, when you look at Texas, central, where a lot of the energy has gone, say central Texas: "[Texas accent] Well now, I don't know now. I just think what we gotta do is we just gotta sorta get us all together and get us kinda goin'." It's up and down, up and down, up and down -- sort of like, you know, on a horse, but it carries the energy.
MISHLOVE: There's a difference. People from Texas, they'll come up and they'll say, "Helllooooo."
HOUSTON: [Shouting] Hello there! How are you?
MISHLOVE: How are you!
HOUSTON: Well, I'm just fine! Oh my, you look cute today? Oooh!
MISHLOVE: It's a whole different quality.
HOUSTON: Yeah, it's a quality, but it's also an energy. It's a resonance, and it keeps you alive and vital and at your edge.
MISHLOVE: We didn't do that in Wisconsin.
HOUSTON: [Laughs] No. But I really think that great speech has to go back into the schools. They've got to really recite Shakespeare and Chaucer, and then their mouths become full of blood, and their mind becomes full of metaphor. And once they have a mind filled with metaphor -- I sometimes say, paraphrasing poor Mr. Browning, "A man's reach must exceed his grasp, or what's a meta phor?" But when your mind is filled with it, then you have simply more hooks and eyes on the pluriverse. You've got more ideas, when you can really language things, when you can hold them in your lap.
MISHLOVE: You said pluriverse.
HOUSTON: A pluriverse. Yes, you can touch more of reality, and you can do more with it.
MISHLOVE: It's as if our way of thinking, our theories, are constrained by our language.
HOUSTON: Yes -- very Latinistic, grammatically limited. When I think, for example, of certain Mesoamerican languages, the old Mayan language, for example, it didn't really have subject-predicate-verb, nor did it have time tenses. We are governed by time and by subject-predicate-verb; but instead it was open, it was circular. And when you have a circular language, then it can sort of take in all kinds of realities.
MISHLOVE: Well, it's interesting because the great mystics of every culture talk about reality that seems so different from the linear way. You know, they say all time is one; all space is one. And our language doesn't give us much opportunity to let that in.
HOUSTON: Well, they always say that in the mystical experience, when a little local self dissolves into a much larger reality, in which we realize that we are nested within nested within nested and we're part of the great I Am, the categories of time are strained by the tensions of eternity, that eternity floods the gates of time. But then of course when you look in terms of just brain neurophysiology of time, the neurophysiology of time, the right hemisphere to all practical purposes does not know time. I can do exercises with people which have to do with rather right-hemispheric exercises, in which they think in images, you know, or they think in metaphors, or in pictures. And they will have -- let's say I'll give them five minutes of clock time, let's say, to rehearse something pictorially, imagistically, in their mind. And I will tell them it will be equal subjectively to all the time they need -- hours and hours and hours. Let's say they're practicing a Bach toccata.
MISHLOVE: I can attest to this. I've witnessed you do this.
HOUSTON: And inside of five minutes, it's as if they've had five or six or seven or ten hours.
MISHLOVE: They come out of a five-minute hypnotic state and sit down at the piano and play a concerto for half an hour.
HOUSTON: Or they can compose one in five minutes, you see. But the point is to get beyond the grammatical restrictions of time, which is a left-hemisphere form. And so I have found that most people can learn things much more rapidly, can create things much more deeply, when they enter into this right-hemispheric, imagistic kind of thought, with a slight alteration on the spectrum of consciousness.
MISHLOVE: You talked earlier about Margaret Mead and your relationship with her. Wasn't this one of her great interests -- looking at what other cultures can contribute to a whole new paradigm for us, to understand our world?
HOUSTON: Yes, harvesting the genius of many cultures. So that a dominant economic culture did not trash all other cultures. I mean, I used to see in the early days of the Peace Corps, where very well meaning people would go in and say, "Hello there, my little brown brother. Let me show you the American way of doing things." You know -- whooom! There would go three thousand years of culture out the window. Where what they could have learned -- what they could have learned, let's say, from aboriginal people's symbiotic relationship with nature; what they could have learned about ways of sleeping to use their dreaming successfully; what they could have learned about the way people created complexities and beauties, aesthetic forms of relationship; what they could have learned from cultures in which the whole use of personal psychology was so much greater. And they did not, and we did not. And I think that's one of the reasons why we were called the ugly Americans, because we came to give, but not to receive. And we now are in desperate need of reciprocity, and the whole world has -- the English weren't much better. And it's so ironic when you go to England now. You sometimes see signs in London saying, "English spoken here," you know; you go to the Heathrow Airport and you don't see any English faces. You know, they went out and they sent their empire all over, and then the empire has completely come back, so the English are now forced to be multicultural, as we are now too. It's a different ball game. It literally is a world for which almost no one has been prepared. But it is, as I've often said, the most exciting time. We are literally reinventing ourselves and the future. But we have a lot of help, because we have access to the incredible use of different potentials that come in from all over the globe now.
MISHLOVE: You tell a very profound story about the last days of Margaret Mead, and her search for a new paradigm. I wonder if you could tell me that again.
HOUSTON: Well, it was as she was dying, and she was saying, "I'm seeing things so differently. I'm seeing things so differently. I mean, I see literally a whole new architecture of sociology, and I wish I could live longer to get it out." But she said, "But one thing that I'm seeing is that if we're going to survive and green our time" -- and that was the word she used. "It is not a question of our traditional use of governments and bureaucracies, but something much richer, much deeper, is trying to emerge. There is a greening power there, and I wish I could live long enough to see it. But it has to do, to start it, it has to do with people getting together. People know what it is. And it happens in some kind of mystery between people. And if you could just create citizens' volunteer groups, or teaching-learning communities" -- those were the words she used, teaching-learning communities -- "where people co-create, where they learn, where they empower, where they evoke, where they call each other into beauty and into excellence, in which they do" -- she said, "exercises like you do, Jean," -- you know, activating the brain and the mind and the spirit. "And then they take on projects to make a difference in the world." And she said, "And Jean, when its time is ready, you do that." And so I did, you know, my ongoing work, but then in 1984 I created something called The Possible Society, where we worked in -- what? -- seventeen different cities, and we created seminars, and we charged almost nothing for them. We had I think something like 1500 people up here in Sacramento, you know. And I used the cultural myths -- The Wizard of Oz, about the disempowered mind, the disempowered heart, the disempowered courage, and how we begin to green the wasteland. And then after working with exercises, showing people how to activate their mind, their heart, their spirit, to get the passion for the possible, how to make use of these many capacities, then we worked for a full day in small groups around education, or hospice centers, or working with the elderly, on taking this extended sensibility, extended capacity, back into the world to make a difference. And literally thousands of projects grew up in seventeen -- there were seventeen bioregions around these. And that's still going on.
MISHLOVE: Yes. So your work involves stimulating other people to think about what they could do in their community.
HOUSTON: Oh yes, absolutely. And acting locally and always thinking globally, because we are now global citizens whether we want to be or not. No, my work is not about some sort of galloping narcissism -- your own Atman grooving on your own dharma and things like that. It's really about becoming citizen volunteers in making the world work, extending the capacity so that we can profoundly make a difference. Because we are in this time in which what we do makes a difference as to whether we survive or whether we just go out as a kind of brilliant experiment that didn't quite work.
MISHLOVE: I know there's this social aspect to what you're doing. I know many people who resonate to what I would think of as the sacred quality of the work.
MISHLOVE: How do the sacred and the social come together?
HOUSTON: I think society is always redreamed and remythologized from the sacred. Whenever you have found the birth of new societies, it always starts with a spiritual basis. I suppose I'm something of a Platonist in this, that I believe that there are great patterns of possibility to which we have access, and that when we get to a place either of hyperstasis -- we get too static; r too kinetic -- you know, it could be hyperkinetic or hyperstasis -- and thus so full of holes, we begin to have access to other levels of the solutions, to these different patterns that connect. I mean, when you look at the incredible harvest of knowledge that has come in our time from many cultures, from many societies, from history, from botany, from biology, from cosmic principles --
MISHLOVE: And it's accelerating.
HOUSTON: And it's accelerating, accelerating so fast that we can't quite grasp the pattern. But beneath the surface crust those patterns are there. And what you find in the great mystics or the great seers or the great visionaries or the great co-creators is that they allow their minds to enter into deep ecology, as I would put it, and they seem to again have, because their senses or their spirits are simply much more vulnerable and available -- it's as if their minds have been coated, filled, with all these ideas, and then these great pulsing patterns of a deep world, of a deep universe, the great co-creative patterns that are yearning at the threshold of existence to enter into time, as if they are pulsed by these patterns, and somehow it begins to fall into place, and the great ideas for the restructuring of self and society enter into time.
MISHLOVE: Enter into time.
HOUSTON: Yes, from perhaps beyond -- from hypertime or hyperspace, from hyperdimensional reality, from the depth world, the archetypal world. Now I don't think those patterns are set. I'm not that much of a Platonist, to say that the archetypal world is set, and we just sort of get our orders -- "Yes sir," or "Yes ma'am" -- but that we are co-creative, that the universe is continuously exploring and inventing itself. But we are, each one of us, that particular focalization in the grid of space and time of the eternal mind-body that is expressing itself and in a state of continuous exploration. But I think we're at a tremendous jump time right now -- phase breakout, jump time, jump. And I think that what we're about to jump into is what I would call High-Level Civilization One.
MISHLOVE: As opposed to?
HOUSTON: Two and Three. And High-Level Civilization One is when suddenly we go planetary; that's what we're doing right now. And we become responsible for planetary governance, for biological governance. I mean, we're about to generate not just things, but whos as well -- you know, people. But we also need to extend our capacities and open up to these tremendous potentials, on a sensory, a physical, a mental, a psychological, a spiritual, a mythic -- we have to change our story, deepen our story -- and a spiritual basis. And then I think in several hundred years we'll go into High-Level Civilization Two, in which we become responsible, quite simply, for perhaps the solar system. We may be terraforming planets, making planets viable, livable. I would say in a hundred years from now there will be perhaps -- what? -- maybe ten thousand separate biospheres going around the sun in separate orbits, but electronically linked, with ten thousand separate cultures being born. We're at that point almost now, jump time, in which we have to make paradise on earth and go up to heaven at the same time. And so we will have an extension of our physical, our mental, our spiritual capacities. We will become not schizophrenic but polyphrenic, orchestrating the multiple dimensions of ourselves. We will have daily life as spiritual exercise. Our own personal myths will become larger, and I'd say a thousand years from now we'll join the galactic milieu, and we'll begin perhaps to create life and planets and be part of a much larger universe. But we're at that critical point of development, of that jump time, in which we join the larger universe.
MISHLOVE: That vision seems to imply such responsibility to who we can become.
HOUSTON: Yes, yes, and I think that we need that lure of becoming if we're going to have the momentum for the possible. And what happened is that we're still living out of visions that were cooked in ancient caves, or in -- perhaps that's not fair -- or cooked into universities dedicated to a much simpler life and mind. We had not been planetary. And what we're missing today, in terms of at least for many people, for billions of people, is we're missing the lure of becoming, because we are coming out of an age which is now at a point of total breakdown. Issues of survival are very radical, and radical is our need and our necessity, and we're at that incredible jump point. When I was a child, I used to love to go to the movies. You know, you'd go to the movies all day on Saturday. You'd come out and say, "Is it still Saturday?" But I used to stay through all the three pictures and the short subjects and the cartoons for one cartoon. It was the cartoon in which Mighty Mouse chases the cat up and down, all over the place, and then the cat goes over a ravine, over into an abyss, and begins to tread air over the abyss until it looks down and says, "Whoops!" -- you know. And I would throw my popcorn in the air and take chewing gum and throw it and shout, and my little brother would be so embarrassed. And it was so meaningful to me, that moment, because that moment was a prefigural event of a world I would meet in my adulthood, where all of us are that cat, in the middle of that ravine, saying, "Whoops!" over the abyss -- at the end of one era, not quite at the beginning of the next, caught in the parenthesis of time. We are the people of the parenthesis. But there is no richer or more potent time to be alive than the time of parenthesis, in which we literally begin to co-create the great whatever, to create the paradigm, the rule, the necessity, the new order, the new forms and patterns that are going to be the next part of our humanity.
MISHLOVE: We need to learn how to fly.
HOUSTON: Yes, in our minds and our souls, certainly.
MISHLOVE: You work with many exercises that help awaken these perceptual talents and talents of integration that we've been speaking about. It's not just theory for you.
HOUSTON: Oh no, no, I've thousands of exercises which I invent constantly.
MISHLOVE: Perhaps this would be a good time to share with our viewers.
HOUSTON: Oh? You'd like an exercise? All right. Well, let's start -- you know, with these mikes on we can't jump all over the place, so let's start with some one of the simplest. I often divide my work into the extension of the physical and sensory, then the extension of the psychological and interactive, the extension of the mythic and symbolic, and of the spiritual. But let's start with a simple sensory exercise, and one that has to do with what Margaret Mead could do very well, extend our perception. Would you be the guinea pig?
MISHLOVE: I'd be delighted.
HOUSTON: And then I would ask the viewing audience to do the exercise at the same time. And what I'm going to do is I'm going to give you a simple exercise which I'm going to do very rapidly for extending your senses, and then as you and the audience have the extended senses, I have a friend who came with me, Peggy Nash Rubin, who is a magnificent actress, and she's my closest associate and works with me all over the world. And I'm going to ask her to come up here and to do a tremendous poem by Stephen Vincent Benet which has a lot of metaphor and juice and fire in it, and let people pick up this poem -- not just listening or viewing, but to pick it up by sensing it and hearing and touching it and tasting it, pick it up on many levels, to be deeply enraptured, within the full sensory panoply by what is happening with this poem. Okay? So I would like you to imagine, Jeffrey, and you in the audience, I would like you to imagine that you are traveling into rooms of the brain, and each room is a different sense, so that you go first into the room of seeing, and you see that room, and it probably has a lot of garbage in it from your, you know, your just sort of taking your seeing for granted and not really seeing. And I want you now to actually physically cleanse that room of seeing -- the visual, it's actually the visual cortex. And would you cleanse it, and actually make movements and begin to cleanse it. And you're cleansing it, and it's getting bright and shining and full of life, and all the things that block the seeing are just being ridden, and you're cleansing it and it's getting clearer and clearer -- the room of seeing. And breathing deeply into that room of seeing, and it is bright and bright. And there is another door, and you go through that door, and it is the room of hearing. Oh, what a mess that is! Just all these baffles, you know, on the walls that are keeping you from hearing as fully and as acutely as you can. Well, there's a scrub brush. Begin to clean it. Open the windows. Throw out the old baffles. Make it bright and shining and full of a kind of wonderful sonic resonance, so that you can hear as deeply as you possibly can. Clean it up, clean it up, so that you have an acuity of hearing. And now there's another door. Go through that door, and it is the room of taste. Oh my, and that plaque on the ground! Scrub it up, get rid of it. Clean it up, clean it up. Breathe deeply, clean it up, so that your taste buds know the full range of taste -- spice and salt and sugar and butteriness, curry, all kinds of sweetness, and the varieties of a kind of extraordinary vegetable experience of green things and tough things and a wonderful variety of taste. Yes, and it's fully there, and going through the room, next room, and it is the room of smell. Oooh, what a wreck that room is! Old bottles of deodorant hanging around. Get the broom and clean it up and make it bright and shining so that you can smell things as wonderful. Wonderful smells -- a sea breeze, a pine forest, a rose garden, new-mown lawn, smelling, and that's a rich, full room. And then you go into the next room. It is the room of touch. Ohh, and that's all filled with junk. Well, get rid of the junk, get rid of the junk, so that you can touch, so that you can be touched, so that you can touch a baby's skin, so that you can touch, you can touch a rose garden, so that you can touch the bark of a tree, so that you can plunge your hands into warm sloppy mud. And all these senses, now begin to breathe deeply through all the rooms, breathing deeply, breathing deeply, breathing deeply. Very good. And now, as we fade to black, I want you to get up and just go there, and Peggy Nash Rubin will come in and we will hear "The Mountain Whippoorwill" by Stephen Vincent Benét. And all of you who are listening, and you too, Jeffrey, as you begin to listen, hear it, touch it, taste it, smell it, be it. Listen to this extraordinary poem on all levels of perception, as Peggy begins.
PEGGY NASH RUBIN: Up in the mountains, it's lonesome all the time / (Sof' win' slewin' thu' the sweet-potato vine). / Up in the mountains, it's lonesome for a child, / (Whippoorwills a-callin' when the sap runs wild). / Up in the mountains, mountains in the fog, ' Everythin's as lazy as an old houn' dog. / Born in the mountains, never raised a pet, / Don't want nuthin' an' never got it yet. / Born in the mountains, lonesome-born, / Raised runnin' ragged thu' the cockeburrs and corn. / Never knew my pappy, mebbe never should. / Think he was a fiddle made of mountain laurel-wood. / Never had a mammy to teach me pretty-please. / Think she was a whippoorwill, a-skitin' thu' the trees. / Never had a brother ner a whole pair of pants, / But when I start to fiddle, why, yuh got to start to dance! / Listen to my fiddle -- Kingdom Come -- Kingdom Come! / Hear the frogs a-chunkin' "Jug o'rum, Jug o'rum!" / Hear that mountain-whippoorwill be lonesome in the air, / An' I'll tell yuh how I traveled to the Essex County Fair. / Essex County has a mighty pretty fair, / All the smarty fiddlers from the South come there. / Elbows flyin' as they rosin up the bow / For the First Prize Contest in the Georgia Fiddlers' Show. / Old Dan Wheeling, with his whiskers in his ears, / King-pin fiddler for nearly twenty years. / Big Tom Sargent, with his blue wall-eye, / An' Little Jimmy Weezer that can make a fiddle cry. / All sittin' roun', spittin' high an' struttin' proud, / (Listen, little whippoorwill, yuh better bug yore eyes! / Tun-a-tun-a-tunin' while the jedges told the crowd / Them that got the mostest claps'd win the bestest prize. /
Everybody waitin' for the first tweedle-dee, / When in comes a-stumblin' -- hill-billy me! / Bowed right pretty to the jedges an' the rest, / Took a silver dollar from a hole inside my vest, / Plunked it on the table an' said, "There's my callin' card! / An' anyone that licks me -- well, he's got to fiddle hard! / Old Dan Wheeling, he was laughin' fit to holler, / Little Jimmy Weezer said, "There's one dead dollar!" / Big Tom Sargent had a yaller-toothy grin, / But I tucked my little whippoorwill spang underneath my chin, / An' petted it an' tuned it till the jedges said, "Begin!" / Big Tom Sargent was the first in line; / He could fiddle all the bugs off a sweet-potato vine. / He could fiddle down a possum from a mile-high tree. / He could fiddle up a whale from the bottom of the sea. / Yuh could hear hands spankin' till they spanked each other raw, / When he finished variations on "Turkey in the Straw." / Little Jimmy Weezer was the next to play; / He could fiddle all night, he could fiddle all day. / He could fiddle chills, he could fiddle fever, / He could make a fiddle rustle like a lowland river. / He could make a fiddle croon like a lovin' woman. / An' they clapped like thunder when he'd finished strummin.' / Then came the ruck of the bob-tailed fiddlers, / The let's go-easies, the fair-to-middlers. / They got their claps an' they lost their bicker, / An' settled back for some more corn-licker. / An' the crowd was tired of their no-count squealing, / When out in the center steps Old Dan Wheeling. / He fiddled high and he fiddled low, / (Listen, little whippoorwill; yuh got to spread yore wings!) / He fiddled with a cherrywood bow. / (Old Dan Wheeling's got bee-honey in his strings.) / He fiddled the wind by the lonesome moon, / He fiddled a most almighty tune. / He started fiddling like a ghost, / He ended fiddling like a host. / He fiddled north an' he fiddled south, / He fiddled the heart right out of yore mouth. / He fiddled here an' he fiddled there. / He fiddled salvation everywhere. / When he was finished, the crowd cut loose, / (Whippoorwill, they's rain on yore breast.) / An' I sat there wonderin', What's the use? (Whippoorwill, fly home to yore nest.) /
But I stood up pert an' I took my bow, / An' my fiddle went to my shoulder, so. / An' -- they was n't no crowd to get me fazed -- / But I was alone where I was raised. / Up in the mountains, so still it makes yuh skeered. / Where God lies sleepin; in his big white beard. / An' I heard the sound of the squirrel in the pine, / An' I heard the earth a-breathin' thu' the long night-time. / They've fiddled the rose an' they've fiddled the thorn, / But they have n't fiddled the mountain-corn. / They've fiddled sinful an' fiddled moral, / But they have n't fiddled the breshwood-laurel. / They've fiddled loud, an' they've fiddled still, / But they have n't fiddled the whippoorwill. / I started off with a dump-diddle-dump, / (Oh, Hell's broke loose in Georgia!) / Skunk-cabbage growin' by the bee-gum stump, / (Whippoorwill, yo're singin' now!) / Oh, Georgia booze is mighty fine booze, / The best yuh ever poured yuh, / But it eats the soles right offen yore shoes, / For Hell's broke loose in Georgia. / My mother was a whippoorwill pert, / My father, he was lazy, / But I'm Hell broke loose in a new store shirt / To fiddle all Georgia crazy. / Swing yore partners -- up an' down the middle! / Sashay now -- oh, listen to that fiddle! / Flapjacks flippin' on a red-hot griddle, / An' hell broke loose, / Hell broke loose, / Fire on the mountains -- snakes in the grass. / Satin's here a-bilin' -- oh, Lordy, let him pass! / Go down Moses, set my people free, / Pop goes the weasel thu' the old Red Sea! / Jonah sittin' on a hickory-bough, / Up jumps a whale -- an' where's yore prophet now? / Rabbit in the pea-patch, possum in the pot, / Try an' stop my fiddle, now my fiddle's gettin' hot! / Whippoorwill, singin' thu' the mountain hush, / Whippoorwill, shoutin' from the burnin' bush, / Whippoorwill, cryin' in the stable-door, / Sing to-night as yuh never sang before! / Hell's broke loose like a stompin' mountain-shoat, / Sing till yuh bust the gold in yore throat! / Hell's broke loose for forty miles aroun' / Bound to stop yore music if yuh don't sing it down. / Sing on the mountains, little whippoorwill, / Sing to the valleys, an' slap 'em with a hill, / For I'm struttin' high as an eagle's quill, / An' Hell's broke loose, / Hell's broke loose, / Hell's broke loose in Georgia! /
They was n't a sound when I stopped bowin', / (Whippoorwill, yuh can sing no more.) / But, somewhere or other, the dawn was growin', / (Oh, mountain whippoorwill!) / An' I thought, "I've fiddled all night an' lost. / Yo're a good hill-billy, but yuh've been boosed." / So I went to congratulate old man Dan, / -- But he put his fiddle into my han' -- / An' then the noise of the crowd began.
HOUSTON: "An' then the noise of the crowd began." Oh, so you tell me what happened.
MISHLOVE: I felt like I was the fiddle. It was like my whole body was being played.
HOUSTON: As it was, because you had opened yourself on every possible level, and that poem will be in you forever, and perhaps to many of you. And you have received knowing and grace and love and -- oh, God -- deep creation and participation on every possible level. And that's how it could be in our education, you see. That's how it could be. Not this terrible distancing of the self from knowledge, but knowledge rich and cracking in our bones and rising in the sap among our marrow, so that we know on many levels. What would life be like if we knew each other, and we knew each other's cultures, in that way? Could we have wars? No. Could we be so cut off from each other? No, we would have absolute empathy and compassion, and our intelligence would bloom to a degree that today would seem more mythic than real.
MISHLOVE: It requires a kind of vulnerability that -- I mean, I don't normally allow myself to feel so deeply.
HOUSTON: But you do now, because you've heard great art performed by a great artist, and you were also prepared for it.
MISHLOVE: The preparation is very important.
MISHLOVE: I've heard the poem before. It hadn't affected me quite like this.
HOUSTON: No, not quite like this, when you're deeply available. And maybe that's what this new world is about. It's about our capacity to be so primed and so deeply available to each other, so that we can understand and we can have access to the depths and begin to create -- well, let me call you to it then. I want you now in this state to envision for me, for everyone here, the possible human and the possible society, in terms now of your heightened sensitivities.
MISHLOVE: I'm seeing . . . I'm in China.
HOUSTON: Ah! What are you seeing in China?
MISHLOVE: I'm seeing karsts along the Li River in China. I've been there; there were peasants there, people who still work with oxes and carry their loads on their shoulders.
MISHLOVE: People who . . . seem to . . . be forced to be cheerful and smile a lot, but there was almost a sense of deadness inside. And I'm having a feeling of . . . I don't know, the beauty of that country permeating the people.
HOUSTON: Jeffrey, open your eyes and look at the people who are looking at you -- the thousands of people, and see their beauty, and tell them what you're seeing, because in this kind of state you can see. Look into the camera, and tell them what you're seeing.
MISHLOVE: I'm seeing brilliant rainbow colors, radiating around everybody. I'm seeing a landscape that's so rich you can smell the earth, and the dew glistens off of the grass. And as the dew sparkles, the hearts sparkle. I'm seeing people, people smiling at each other -- not superficially, like "Have a nice day" kind of smile, a habitual smile, but a smile that wells up from the depths and resonates among each other, so that people know each other deeply in that smile. I'm seeing people work hard, but not alienated from their work -- not because they have to work to earn a living, but because they know where their work comes from and where it goes, and who benefits from it, and they feel the consequences of their labor, and they feel the labor that other people have provided for them-- in the clothes they wear, in the tools that they use, so that there's a deep sense of interconnectedness, not just theoretical, but a sense of knowing inwardly, being able to envision the history of every object that they touch; an ability to look at the earth and the mountains, and to understand the history of the cultures that have risen and fallen, and the strivings and yearnings of those people, and to see themselves as the latest embodiment of those yearnings and strivings, and to know that they are carrying forward the great, deep vision of all of humanity, into a new generation.
HOUSTON: You are seeing deeply and you are seeing well. And you are providing a lure of becoming for all those who are seeing with you and through you. What would the United Nations be like if we started each day in this manner? The extension of our capacity to see, to hear, to touch, to know, with great art and with great seeing. And that is our promise. That is what is possible. You know, Jeffrey, there's a poem that I love very much, that comes out of a play by Christopher Fry called The Sleep of Prisoners, which in my mind summons up everything we've been talking about and what we've been pointing to. And it goes: "The human heart can go to the lengths of God. / Dark and cold we may be, but this / Is no winter now. The frozen misery / Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move; / The thunder is the thunder of the floes, / The thaw, the upstart Spring. / Thank God our time is now when wrong / Comes up to face us everywhere, / Never to leave us till we take / The longest stride of soul men ever took. / Affairs are now soul size. / The enterprise / Is exploration into God. / Where are you making for? It takes / So many thousand years to wake, / But will you wake for pity's sake?"
I know you have, and I know you will. I don't know that we have any other option at this extraordinary time in history.
MISHLOVE: Jean, I'm just speechless. I'm going to have to ask you to carry on a little bit. I feel so touched.
HOUSTON: All right. Let me tell a story. It's a science fiction story. It's one of my favorites. It has to do with a little boy in the present, who's dying of leukemia, and there is no known cure, and he watches from his bed a kind of Captain Future, and he collects stamps, and he has a wonderful stamp collection, but he knows he only has several months left to live. And he wins a contest of Captain Future, but he can't go to the station to collect it, and so Captain Future comes to visit him, and he says, "Can you help me get well?" And Captain Future says, "I'm sorry, I can't, but my prayers are with you." And so he starts to think about the future, the future, and the little boy thinks, "Well, somewhere in the future they know how to cure childhood leukemia. Now, I have this stamp collection, and it is worth so much." So with his last strength he takes his collection, and he puts it into a big metal box, and he writes a letter: "Dear people of the future: I think this stamp collection will be worth a great deal in the future. Please sell it, and with the proceeds, if you know how to time travel, would you come back and get me? I'll be here on July 22, 1992" -- or whatever the year is -- "and you come and get me. I'm burying it on July 21. But you come get me and see if you can't cure me." So he makes his way to the river, and he digs a hole, and he puts this down, and he covers it, and he crawls back to his home. And the next day, with the last of his strength -- he's nearly dying -- it's on July 22, 1992, and he waits by the river, and nothing happens. And suddenly, Zoom, boom! And there's a pop, and there's this funny little machine and this funny little man, who says: "[Garbled speech, very fast] Why, we got your message, . . . We picked you up . . . whoop, whoop, whoop, zoom!" And his parents, who don't see him in bed, and they run around in that night, and they come and they go to the river, and suddenly -- "[Fast garbled speech] Whoom! There we are. All ready, all fixed. Boop, boop." And there he is, all well. And I think in a sense that's almost a metaphor for our time, and that we are sending messages to the future. We are sending messages throughout time and space that we are ready; we need to be healed, and it's as if great time and great space, ensconced in great story, and in the great feelings that we're all having for each other, is coming from beyond the local dimensions, coming up from the depth world -- it isn't the future necessarily, but it's the deep world, saying, "The healing is at hand. We are ready to be made whole again." Not healed; it's way beyond healing, but whole. And we are on the verge of perhaps the greatest possibility for humanity that the world has ever known. These are the times. We are the people.
MISHLOVE: Jean Houston, you are the messenger.
HOUSTON: One of many, many, many. And so are you.
MISHLOVE: Thanks so much.
HOUSTON: Thank you, Jeffrey.