Open Mind

 

A presentation for

The Webb School

Bell Buckle,

Tennessee

Last performed January 9, 2006

Revised May 18, 2002

Originally Presented 20 February,  2001

By P. Michael Quinn

Live Performance(2006)

Download mpg, download f4v, download wmv.

 

Original 2001 performance below:

(enter from behind curtain,

draped in blue cloth with other layers underneath.

Start soundtrack of my voice,

with my face,

mouth closed,

just used for expressions during the monologue)

 

This may be thought of as performance art,

if you more comfortable to think of it that way,

and if I understand what performance art is.

But I donít know much about art,

other than it always seems more complicated than I think it is.

Anyway,

Once I was offered the opportunity to speak about an open mind,

so here I am.

And I would like to say that what Iím telling you is true,

but it is only true for me.

For now,

I think.

But Iím not sure.

Anyway,

Iíve always done odd things when I donít understand something,

and believe me,

there is very little that I understand,

so I do a lot of odd things.

Actually,

there may be only one true thing in this whole universe that I really feel I understand,

but Iíll get to that later.

When you look around,

you might see other folks that seem a little odd,

a little weird.

Iíve been told many times that Iím weird.

I think itís because,

well,

I am weird.

Or just silly.

Or just a show-off.

I donít know.

But when I donít understand something,

it frustrates me,

and I do something weird about it.

I donít know why.

I just do.

Itís kind of scary because I donít fully understand it.

It sometimes scares other people because they donít understand it either.

Or at least it makes them nervous.

 

Like,

I donít understand how life works,

so I painted DNA on my van.

There are also painted the universal vibration of  ďOMĒ and the symbol of the bellicose ďSlipknotĒ band,

then I painted dancing people things circling around.

I like dancing,

and my dance is also weird because I lack rhythm and grace.

But I have been told that,

as far as we know,

all living things have a molecule like DNA in them,

and it is the closest understanding I have to the way life works,

so I painted DNA on the van.

Sometimes I think of DNA as GOD in a way.

After all,

DNA tells living things how to get organized to live.

But DNA is made of atoms,

and atoms are made of even smaller little pieces.

Do these smaller little pieces tell atoms how to work?

Do atoms tell DNA how to work?

Does DNA tell humans how to work?

But right now humans are re-arranging DNA to make it work for us.

Human cloning may be closer than we think.

But is it dangerous for us to change the very stuff of life

and tell it how to work?

And what makes the little pieces of the atoms work?

How do all our little pieces know how to work together to make our bodies

like the little atoms that make up the DNA?

Some scientists say that we may have to re-think the way atoms operate altogether.

If this is confirmed,

then the Standard Model,

then the heart of subatomic theory,

will not be able to describe our universe anymore

It reminds me of a Weird Al Yankovic song,

called ďEverything you know is wrongĒ,

but really itís not that bad,

unless you have a hard time changing your mind about things when you learn more about them.

So I still donít understand the magical mysterious force behind DNA.

But I could go back to college and study molecular biology and physics,

and maybe I will some day.

I really,

really want to learn more about it.

But for now,

it just frustrates me,

so I paint DNA on my van and drive it around.

I really donít know why.

I just do.

It makes people look at me,

to notice me.

Maybe they will hear what I have to say,

but Iím not really saying anything.

Iím just filling space with colors,

just like now Iím filling time with words.

Iím just being my old weird self.

I donít understand how dinosaurs became extinct,

or why humans treat each other so horribly that they use their intelligence to create deadly nuclear weapons that could make themselves extinct.

So I made a clay dinosaur with odd looking nuclear missiles coming out of it.

I even started a business called the ďDinosaur Dirt FarmĒ.

Really I was trying to understand mysterious,

scary things.

The extinction of living organisms,

my own life and death,

and the recycling of atoms in the universe.

So I made these cute little happy looking dinosaur guys,

and tried to sell them.

But I made them under the dark shadow of my confusion.

There are so many things that I donít understand,

and I want to do weird things about them,

too.

The more I think about things,

the weirder it gets,

until I learn more about them.

Sometimes.

I donít understand religions

so I made a puppet show about it called ďThe Mystical Adventures of Bob Roy the Country BoyĒ.

It uses puppets made from old socks and scraps.

Itís about a boy with a mind so open that he is confused by religious leaders who only seem to want something from him.

But thatís another story,

sort of.

Anyway,

I donít understand what Iím talking about right now,

so Iím doing something weird,

and what you see before you is a puppet show.

You see,

That funny looking thing you see in front of you

 is my most trusted and complicated puppet.

It is made of old,

old atoms and lots of old ideas,

and it usually does what I want.

But sometimes it gets sick,

and worried,

and tired,

and right now I canít trust it to say things the way I want it to.

Its brain wonít stop working,

and it is often very confused,

and if I let it talk out loud Iím not sure what it would say.

So I use the sound machine to do my talking.

I know every word the sound machine will say.

Itís funny how we trust machines with our very lives.

Our ideas.

Our essence.

We almost trust machines more than we trust ourselves.

Many of us would be lost without our cell phone,

our TV or CD player.

I even wrote these words using a computer.

These are complicated electronic things,

and most of us donít begin to know how they were put together and what makes them what they are,

but we just accept them and enjoy them.

Too bad we canít seem to always do that with people.

Just accept them and enjoy them.

But still I trust the sound machine more than my body puppet.

(Head expresses sad frustration)

Hey now,

stand up straight and be a good puppet!

Come on,

you can smile.

(Head smiles)

You can wave hello.

(Hand waves)

Now,

just do what youíre supposed to.

(Continue holding panel)

(sigh)

So,

back to this puppet show about open mind.

And remember,

I would like to say that what Iím telling you is true

- but it is only true for me

- For now

- I think.

But Iím not sure.

When I was younger I thought that people didnít understand me,

until I realized that I was the one who didnít understand.

It frustrates me to not understand,

and I donít think Iím the only one who doesnít understand things.

I donít think Iím the only one who gets frustrated about this.

I went to school for years to try to learn things -to try to understand,

but I still donít know all that much.

I think about the things that I really think I know,

and the only things that I really know for absolutely certain are the things I know about myself,

that I have experienced directly through my own senses.

And even these things I donít fully understand.

Everything else I have to believe.

Everyone else,

I have to believe.

I have to believe that when you tell me something,

that it is true to you,

that you believe it too,

and that you believe it because you are trusting in the things that you know about yourself.

I have to take what you tell me and immediately judge it against everything I think I know.

Is what you tell me good?

Is it bad?

Do I understand it?

Does it really matter to me?

Do I believe it?

Is it true to you?

Is it true to me?

As children,

we are told many things by those who are older than us,

by people we trust.

We believe them,

for that is the only thing we can do to fill our open mind.

We are told different things,

depending on where we grow up.

Some folks grow up in India,

some folks grow up in China,

some folks grow up in Africa.

I grew up in northern Alabama,

mostly.

My family went to church on every Sunday morning,

every Sunday night,

every Wednesday night,

and every night of Revival,

and every day of summer Bible School,

and I even went to Bible camp.

I was taught a very simple message from a very complicated book.

Little pieces of that book were taken out and repeated

Over and over and over again.

It was called the gospel story,

and it went something like this:

(Drop blue panel to reveal Black one underneath,

still only theHead showing as panels are dropped)

We are born into a sinful world.

Eve sinned,

Adam sinned and all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

We are by our very nature sinners,

and on our way to burn in hell when we die.

(Drop black panel to reveal Red one underneath)

But God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son,

Jesus Christ,

to shed his precious blood and die on the cross as redemption for our sins.

And Jesus arose living from the grave and ascended into heaven and is now with God the Father.

(Drop red panel to reveal White one underneath)

And whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God and that He was sent into the world

to die on the cross to redeem us of our sins and that he rose from the grave and is now in Heaven,

and asks Jesus to some into his heart,

and save him,

will be saved from everlasting death and damnation and torment in the fires of Hell.

(Drop white panel to reveal Gold one underneath)

And when the believer dies,

he goes to Heaven to receive crowns of jewels and walk the streets of gold forever,

and ever,

and ever.

But everybody else will burn in hell.

Amen.

If you believed and did this then you were saved.

And I got saved 3 times.

I got up when we sang a song called ďJust as I amĒ,

and went down in the front of the Church to pray to Jesus with the preacher,

and I really felt strange.

And good.

And I got baptized too,

where you get dipped under water by the preacher to dry out as your new,

saved self.

But in the Church I went to,

you only had to get saved once,

and it stuck forever,

if you truly believed.

And I did.

And do now,

sort of.

(Drop gold panel to reveal Black and White Checkerboard panel underneath, only the Head still showing )

It was really, really simple.

Black and white.

You were saved or you were lost.

You were good or you were bad.

You were Christian or you werenít.

You go to heaven or to hell.

God and Devil.

Good and bad.

My way or the wrong way.

And the preacher and his church may have had their minds full of this,

I donít really know,

but I knew my mind was still empty enough to rattle things around.

You see,

some things started happening at the church that I didnít understand.

You have to remember,

I donít understand much.

We had a missionary woman that went all the way to Africa to tell little Black children about Jesus.

She came back to church one Sunday after she had been in Africa for a really long time.

She taught us one of the songs she sang to little African children.

She taught us the African and English words,

but I only remember the English words:

It went something like this:

(Toss respective colored panels as the colors below are sung)

ďJesus loves the little children,

all the children of the world

Red

and yellow

black

and white

They are precious in his sight

Jesus loves the little children of the world.Ē

The whole church took up money to send her all the way back to Africa to tell more children about Jesus because the little African children were all going to burn in hell forever if we didnít tell them about Jesus.

I thought they sent her because Jesus said to love everyone the same way that we love ourselves,

and besides,

Jesus loves all little children.

But maybe the church sent her just because Christians are supposed to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every living creature.

And maybe,

just maybe,

some folks arenít that certain that getting saved sticks,

and you had better do something else God says just in case.

Even though the Bible says that by Grace are you saved,

by your Faith.

That being saved is the Gift of God,

not of works,

lest any man should boast.

But weird things happened that I didnít understand.

The preacher of the church would say things that werenít really in the Bible,

but that people seemed real interested to hear.

The preacher said that we needed to be concerned about the Devil in the world.

The preacher said that the Devil was working right here in our town.

The preacher said the Devil was telling the communists what to do.

And the Preacher showed us a movie,

a black and white movie from the John Birch Society,

of horrible images of dead dismembered people that the Devil and the communists had killed.

And the communists and the Devil were telling the Negroes in our town what to do.

And if we didnít watch out,

if we didnít pull together,

if we didnít protect ourselves from the communists and Negroes

they would come across the rail road tracks

to our side of the town,

and take over everything,

and communists and Negroes would control the government

and we had to stop them right now.

And everybody nodded and said ďAmenĒ.

But after that the church was almost normal,

except in the parking lot,

where the people talked about the communists and Negroes.

But they didnít really say ďcommunistĒ.

And they didnít say ďNegroĒ.

And they didnít say many things at all that I thought Jesus would want to hear.

I didnít understand how we could send a missionary all the way to Africa

and be worried about the people on the other side of the railroad tracks taking over our house.

I couldnít understand why we just didnít tell them about Jesus.

Then they could get baptized like me,

and everything would be OK,

all the way to heaven.

And because I didnít understand this,

of course I did something weird about it.

I made faces at the teacher during BTU,

or Bible Training Union,

which is like a night-time version of Sunday school.

I just made faces and made faces and made faces.

(Make faces at audience)

Then that night I got a really bad spanking ,

but I donít like to talk about that.

Maybe my dad was scared of communists and Negroes and the devil.

Maybe he was scared people would think his kid was evil,

making faces at the BTU teacher and all.

Maybe he just needed to trust Jesus a little bit more.

Or maybe I just needed to learn how to behave in public.

But thatís when things really changed for me.

We moved to Smyrna Tennessee,

and my new sixth grade class was a lot different.

The Negroes had already come across the railroad tracks I guess,

or maybe there was only one elementary school,

but we were all just sixth graders.

Mixed up all together.

Integrated,

and just fine about it.

We still mostly talked with folks that looked like ourselves,

did the same things as us,

and lived in the same neighborhoods.

But we werenít afraid of each other.

And we didnít try to take over each otherís house or anything.

But thatís when I started thinking that maybe

I shouldnít believe everything the preacher said about Negroes

and communists

and the Devil.

Which made me think of all the other things the preacher had said.

Maybe I should think about things my own self.

Maybe all of the thousands of years that went into the Bible couldnít be contained in a single story about four colors.

Maybe I should read the Bible myself.

Maybe I should learn about what other people think about God type stuff.

But maybe I would burn in hell,

just like the preacher said,

if I didnít believe the way he said I should.

It took me a long time to get over that,

if I ever did.

Weird things still happened,

and I did weird things,

But when I got older I found out some things about that church

that helped me understand, but not feel any better about it.

I was told the Head Deacon was the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan of Alabama.

That made me think a long, long

time about that church.

and church in general.

Well,

thatís most of the story,

and here comes the preaching part.

Now Iíve watched enough kids in chapel to know that this is where you zone out and go to sleep.

But he who has an ear,

Let him hear.

And he who doesnít care,

just tolerate the time.

(Begin the playing of background music, ďMy WeaknessĒ, by Moby)

It is hard to believe sometimes.

It may be hard to believe other people,

especially when you learn things about them that you didnít know before.

Or they do things that confuse you.

Like lie.

Cheat.

Steal.

Or cause pain and humiliation.

Sometimes people you really, really trust may do something really, really bad

or just plain selfish

or stupid.

I surely hope not,

ever.

I donít understand other folks sometimes,

I donít even understand myself.

But from time to time I have to look back at what I have directly experienced myself.

It is selfish,

I know,

but sometimes your self is the only safe and comfortable place to be.

Hopefully we all know people that we believe,

that we can trust,

that it is safe and comfortable to be with.

That we can share anything with at all.

People that you know.

People that know you.

That you love.

That love you.

God is love.

I believe the God is in all of us,

waiting to surface.

To come in.

Just like Jesus said,

God stands at the door of your mind and heart and knocks,

and if you hear the knocking,

and let God in,

then God comes in, as Love..

I donít have a strong academic knowledge of religions,

but I think that when Jesus was born,

there was something more to the appearance of the three wise men from the East than most folks let on.

And I think that

Amen

and

Om

sound an awful lot alike,

and I think that I think too much

and just need to sit really still

and be really quiet

for a really long time

more often.

And I believe that when a person trusts another enough to share a pure communication of the experience of their soul,

with the wall of self protection set aside and plain and simple truth is shared with no disguise,

(drop all cloth)

no hidden agenda,

no motive but to share,

that the God inside of each of us is sharing with itself and that if this one pure moment could go on with us forever as we go about our lives and we could always know that when we meet someone that everything we say is from the purity of all that we have experienced in our individual lives and we express the truth and just the truth so help me God every moment every day that it will be the closest thing to heaven we can have upon this earth

and if a student lives the  Words of the Webb Honor Code and signs their name into the pledge book

not to lie or cheat or steal

but just be simply honest 

every moment

every day

that then

the purest human spirit

holy spirit hear on earth

would reign supreme

 

but we all know that we just canít and so we fail and

†††††††† fall to our temptation,

††††††††††††††††† to lie and cheat and steal,

†††††††††††††††††††††††††† to copy someoneís homework and present it as our own,

†††††††††††††††††††††††††† to sneak away the empties so that no one knows what we did on the weekend

because weíre weak.

Weíre only human.

We need to find the strength to keep our heart open and pure,

or to at least to trust in others,

and that is where we lean upon religion and tradition.

We find that we have common themes in our complicated lives

and we find strength in our tradition

in our culture and religion

and we give them names and categories

and we find

safety in similarity

strength in numbers and

honor in a history of continuous existence.

And yet that is my weakness:

A lack of strong tradition because I'm open to new things.

But when Iím weak or tired or scared I tend to lean upon my past,

to lean upon my loved ones and to lean upon my Christ,

because thatís how I grew up.

Plain and simple.

But itís a complicated world,

with complicated people,

and complicated situations,

and when we speak and do things we include many complex thoughts

of pain

or love

or loss

or betrayal

or fear

And we canít expose our truth.

Who wants to hear it anyway?

Because each of us takes in the world through our individual eyes,

through our individual hearts,

through our individual soul for a different view

with different thoughts

and different past

a different life.

It itís not a black and white world

light and dark world,

us and them world.

Itís simply not that simple.

(Drop checkered panel, pull DNA model made from multicolored twisty balloons from behind curtain)

Itís a universe filled with infinitely changing forms

Infinitely changing beings

(Dance and move to ďMy WeaknessĒ theme while swirling moving DNA balloon model around and around)

And when we try to shove our beauty into concepts in our minds

And we give everything a name-

a label-

category-

box

Then we lose the very essence of this ever changing world because

There is not one single person in this moment of existence

sitting in exactly the same place,

seeing,

smelling,

hearing

exactly the same thing,

or thinking the same thoughts

or doing anything the same

as anyone else in the universe.

Nothing in this worldís the same as anything else.

Everything is different.

Every little thing.

Every rock.

Every shoe.

Every grain of sand

every snowflake

Every star

Every tree

Every human living,

every person past

and everyone that will be.

Everyone is different

But everyone's the same

I am that I am

and

we are that we are

and we will change into the future

into Beauty, Truth and Love.

 

Just let us be.

 

 (release balloonse)

I would like to say that what Iím telling you is true

but it is only true for me.

For now.

I think.

But Iím not sure.

 

Comments to:

P. Michael Quinn