Yes we can!

       Yes we did!

Yes we can!

       Yes we did!

So went the chant lead by Colin Meloy of the Decemberists and the packed house at the Electric Factory.  It was only a few days after the election of Barrack Obama in 2008 and Meloy (along with most of the crowd) were still abuzz with excitement.  However, as the chant went on I couldn’t help but notice that here and there a few fans turned around and left the show.

I must confess that at the time it didn’t really bother me.  But ever since the fervor that arose in the wake of Mike Pence’s visit to see Hamilton this past weekend, I have been thinking about the exodus of those fans eight years ago.


Let me be clear.  My wife and I are theatre people.  We both performed from middle school through college and she has worked in professional theatre as a fundraiser ever since.  Thus it should come as no surprise that we fundamentally sympathetic to the actors.

The issue for me is not what the cast said (remember, the boos came from the audience, not the actors). Their words were both eloquent and respectful.  Indeed, vice president elect Pence has stated that he had no problem with them.   Moreover, contrary to what the president elect and others have claimed, the role of theatre (or any art) is not to create a “safe space” or to make people happy.  Indeed, it is patently absurd that some of those who previously criticized the idea of “safe space” for overly-sensitive liberal types are now demanding it for themselves.  But that’s beside the point.   Because this issue is not about the first amendment or being offended, it is about the sacred space between performer and audience.

This space has nothing to do with politics.  The piece can be political.  When not on stage the actors can be political.  But, once that relationship between actor and audience is established, things change.  The actor is no longer expressing their personal views but the voice of the character they inhabit.  Any politics come from the piece, not the person.

This inherent distance between performer and audience is known as the Fourth Wall.  And while a few artists (and Deadpool) make a career out of breaking it, the Fourth Wall is generally respected by both artist and audience alike.  And so when it is broken it naturally raises questions.



To be fair, while the performers never broke character to address Mr. Pence, they did use the stage to make a personal statement.  And that brings us at last to the real issue… should the stage be turned into the performer’s personal pulpit?

That’s a sticky issue because while we all have the right to free speech and free expression, those of us who perform or preach are called to willingly suspend them for the sake of our vocation.  And speaking of pulpits, if Mr. Pence or Mr. Trump were to walk into my church I can’t promise I would be able to resist the opportunity to somehow tailor what I had to say in order to speak directly to them.  Indeed, some would argue that if I didn’t I would be negligent in my prophet and moral duty to speak truth to power.

At the end of the day I don’t care that people were offended. They don’t have to listen to Hamilton or The Decemberists ever again.  But I do think that those of us who perform need to remember that it is not about us, it is about the art.  And that is what we must protect… not people’s feelings, not our ticket sales or attendance, but the sacred space between us and our audience, because without it, our art wouldn’t exist in the first place.

Walking is Aikido

I’ve been studying Aikido for more than 12 years now and it has made a real difference in my daily life.   Translated as “The Way of Harmony” the practitioner strives to achieve harmony with others, including potential attackers.  If one can synchronize one’s posture and timing with an attack it is neutralized.


Yours truly throwing a training partner. The camera failed to capture the Sith Lightning coming from my fingers.

As I deepened my studies I read philosophical books on the art.  Aikido Shugyo is the autobiography of the founder the particular style I study, Gozo Shioda.  It’s been some years but one line remains clear in my mind,  “Walking is Aikido.”


As with all great philosophy, there is a lot of depth beneath these few simple words.  In essence, the idea is that Aikido is not simply a series of proscribed movements and routines done in the dojo or in a fight.  Real Aikido is a constant discipline and permeates the whole of your life, including the most fundamental aspects like walking and breathing.

Last week I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee to repair a torn medial meniscus.  I suffered the same injury to the other knee eight years before as a result of my training.  This time the injury came not from the mat but from the mosh pit.

Once the anesthesia wore off, I needed to start to walk again.  Needless to say it was no fun.  Bandages and swelling made bending the knee difficult as well as painful and weight bearing was uncomfortable.  It also meant I had to go to the closet and get out my great grandfathers briarwood cane.


It’s quite an experience to have to re-learn something so basic as walking.  I have to make sure the cane is in the correct hand.  I have to make sure I sync it correctly with my feet.  It is frustrating, painful and really annoying to not be able to walk and move as I want to.  But once I put those feelings aside what I found was an opportunity.  To be conscious, actively conscious of every step.  To pay attention to how I lean to one side or lean forward onto my cane.  If I don’t pay attention, there are consequences… if I move too fast or take steps too quickly my knee hurts and I delay my recovery.  If I don’t correct my body posture I wind up with an aching shoulder or back.

I have had to re-learn how to find harmony with the ground and with my body as I walk.  It has forced me to be more mindful of my mundane actions.  Ultimately I know that in time the pain of the surgery will be worth it because my repaired knee will no longer ache when I drive.  I will be able to get down on my knees again without pain and thus participate again in the Aikido techniques done from a kneeling position.  But I hope I will also be able to continue to walk in a mindful way, even after I put my cane back in the closet.

Every Saint has a Past, Every Sinner has a Future

Yesterday (Nov 1) the Church celebrated All Saints Day. This feast day reminds us of the important fact that we all have the potential to be saints and are indeed called to live into that potential.
So in honor of all the saints, great and small, known and unknown alike, I want to share this past post on saints, their nature and how our preconceptions can get in the way of recognizing them.

So This Priest Walks Into a Bar...

One never knows where inspiration will strike.  As someone who looks for moments of the Divine outside its traditional milieu, I try to stay alert for such things, but at times even I get caught off guard.


il_570xN.419946369_as8fI was heading towards the checkout line at the local Acme when I noticed the young woman standing in front of me.  Her tank top revealed a multitude of tattoos, none of which were very good.  Yet as I was about to squinch up my nose in displeasure, I noticed the tattoo on her shoulder.  But what struck me was not its quality (it was just a poor as the others) but rather the sentiment that was permanently inscribed there.  It read “Every saint has a past.  Every sinner has a future”


I stood transfixed, completely absorbed in considering the depth and meaning of those words.  If anything their poor execution made…

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