Thursday, August 9, 2007
The red tea box 2002
I remember carrying an idea around for two weeks before I knew how to approach it. I needed to know what other people think about. I wanted an opportunity to overcome the fear of having more meaningful conversations with others.
I happen to stumble on a new storefront on Queen Street West called The Red Tea Box. From the outside it appeared tiny and insignificant. I quietly stepped through the front door. I was instantly surrounded by Chinese antiques, a plethora of unique and mysterious teas housed in ancient drawers, exotic fruit and beautiful baked goods stacked lovingly on decorative platters. I noticed a modest kitchen on my right and a door on the left as I visually groped my way deeper into the space. A young woman, Mun was her name, spoke up and invited me to proceed through the door to take a look. I was reminded of the movie Shangri-La as I walked down the long narrow shaded pathway along the outside of the building into an open courtyard. From the din of the pathway into the light of the courtyard, the feeling the serenity and richness felt miles away from the busy street I had left only a few minutes ago. There were obvious touches of detail that made this refuge even more entreating; wooden Indonesian artifacts, a primitively crafted bench and an large antique framed mirror reflecting the gardens back onto itself. Beyond the courtyard I faced a two-story carriage house with open French doors revealing a sitting room. Again, I was drawn into the exotic décor and the meditative atmosphere. I turned around and slowly returned to the front of the store and walked in again through to the carriagehouse. I repeated the experience a third time and I realized the feeling of the space grew richer on each review. Now on my third goodbye, Mun asked if I was in need of anything at which point I spontaneously requested a quote for a private gathering in the carriage house for twelve to fifteen people. This was a new request for them and it took some time for them to respond.
The others called the first gathering The Salon. Friends and friends of friends arrived not knowing what to expect. My intention was to let it happen instead of determining it any more than I already had. I was as much a spectator and a participant as anyone else, or so I thought. Michael, a chief technology officer was the first to arrive and after he introduced himself he made the observation, “I guess we should move the seating into a circle."
I continued to greet people as they arrived. As the organizer I felt I would begin by setting the tone of the conversation through storytelling rather than by introducing an agenda. I must admit my first words were like I had stepping into an abyss. I was conscious of the random path of my words as I expressed my curiosity about life and living. If there were expectations they quickly dissipated as others began to engage by offering similar, alternative or contrasting examples from their own life experiences. What were initially small fragmented conversations became one inclusive conversation which developed its own empathic cadence on a platform of generosity and mutual respect.
The trust in the room was very high. Everyone was willing to participate and everyone walked away having satisfied a need. I walked away with hope.
There is a sympathetic quality in knowing.
We have a natural curiosity and a need for soft resolve.
I, the masses, am no more or less human.
These observations may sound obvious to others but for me these are things I have had to confirm. I leave the Red Tea Box with much more hope and far less cynicism knowing I can trust these people as we pass on the street.
A sampling of email responses:
I had this thought that connecting a bunch of ideas that were passed around, what if "everything is as it should be" (not in the naive sense that there aren't numerous things that need to be changed and that we should (if we feel so moved), get involved in to make a difference), but rather, in the big picture, balanced sense, that as humans it is next to impossible to see or believe because it is bigger than we are (and we are too used to seeing things only from our own limited, narrow personal perspective). Anyway, on this theme, things like the cave paintings that you were talking about and how there was such overlap and parallel with the same kind of art expression across cultures in the same time period - it makes me think that there is a sort of developmental human evolution that is going on in both a large scale and personal scale and that there are always parallels that we can have access to. So, that we can see for example the parallels in art expression of a given period across cultures and we can see similarities for example in developmental states of human (moral, emotional, intellectual and sensori-motor) development (i.e 2 year olds tend to behave in particular similar ways). So, it leads me to wonder what picture we could begin to paint (so to speak) of the place we are at in human evolution right now, trusting that "things are as they should be", what would we look like (in other words, let's say if an outside observer were to be able to articulate how they perceived humanity in the year 2002. And, I believe WE have the capacity - though not often practised, to be able to formulate this kind of big picture thinking/sensing, so that we are better able to SEE OURSELVES and evaluate/assess how we are doing and where we are going and where we would like to be going.
Thanks for your response. You have a way of reaching out that encourages the graceful and reassuring act of holding hands. That's sort of what it felt like to me last night. A group of people interested in thinking and feeling deeply and sharing that. If I didn't have words, an accurate image to reflect this connection and yearning for intimacy (in the largest sense of the word), would be of people sitting together holding hands.
I guess in trying to articulate the energy I feel from participating in the salon, it is in feeling the joy of the opportunity to share who I really am. And to experience the privilege of other people risking being emotionally and intellectually open. Sadly, there seem to be so few opportunities for this. There is nothing I would rather spend my time doing than this. So, I came away with a smile on my face and in my heart and just felt glad to be alive. Sounds so simple really, but how often do we really stop to actually feel this?
Yes, I too get back a sense of hope, of possibility and expansiveness. Reminds me of the title of a good film, "the incredible lightness of being". Something delicate and sacred and hearty.
I am not at all surprised by what you wrote... nor the reverberation I feel as I'm assimilating the thoughts, feelings, ideas, beliefs....
I'll write later....
thank you, thank you.
(.. I wondered if people just left so quickly normally. I felt as though I was needing some time to talk some more afterward.. )