There is something in the air. Many people feel it. There is something in the air. It's hard to describe. There is something in the air. There's an electricity, an anticipation. A caution, an anxiety in the air. There's a fear, an in-trepidation, a possibility in the air. There is something in the air and it feels like everything could change at any moment. It's been feeling this way for months....maybe even years.
America has been the world leader, innovator in modern technology since World War II. These advances in technology shape how a large and growing percentage of all human beings on Earth live their daily lives. We have a lot to be proud of. We also have some real struggles. Probably the most glaring struggle is with our Democracy. By Democracy, I'm not talking about voting. I'm talking about how we collectively sort out what to consider, what to vote for. I'm talking about how we engage each other to make decisions in the best interest of the group. I'm talking about how we come together.
"Together." That word is crucial. We know that, "Together" means to to combine, or to do simultaneously. If we can play a little game with this word, we'll come up with..."To-get-here." To Get Here. To arrive at a particular place, at a particular moment in time. Perhaps the purpose of our togetherness is to combine our thoughts, wishes and dreams right here, right now.
And this brings us to our game, Chance/Change. This group dialogue game was developed as a way to explore how we work together, what we bring to it and how we feel about it. COSACOSA Director Kimberly Niemela, community organizer Brian Kelly, and I hashed out the beginnings of the game and honed it in the communities COSACOSA serves. We wanted to create an experience for participants that would potentially challenge them, acknowledge their experience and illustrate new information. We began to develop somewhat, real-life, scenarios for participants to work through together, that would cut across class and ethnic divisions. We also wanted folks to not have the luxury or burden of themselves. So, we developed randomly selected roles and personalities for each player, allowing participants to play a character that they create based on some simple guidelines.
These characters have histories, attitudes, strengths and weaknesses. Most important, they are not simple nor easy characters to portray. They are complex people with contradictions that sometimes may interfere with their thinking or behavior. Yet, to play the game, a player need not be an actor. Anyone can play and should come as they are. Just an open mind and willingness to step outside of yourself are the only requirements.
Watching the game unfold, it is revealing just how much we know about the behaviors and actions of others. But always at the conclusions of each game, it is more revealing about just how much players describe the peculiar task of observing themselves portraying someone else and about how much they learned about the other person's issues and views. Armed with this information, perhaps we can better strategize group meetings and transform them into meaning work sessions and think tanks. Perhaps we can work together.
Over the past few years, we have been bludgeoned with the word, "Change." From "Change We Can Believe In" to "The Change We Need." With all of the sloganeering, sometimes it feels as if the word has lost some of its magic, some of its power. However, when called upon the word "Change," brushes off the dust and cobwebs and gets back into action. Making possibilities happen. Like our caped crusading, super heroes and villains alike, change is on the ready. For Change is an action word, a verb. It cannot sit still very long.
With a switch of a single letter, "Change" becomes "Chance." Chance is the personalization of change. Of course Change is inevitable. It is an unnamed force of nature. It is life in motion. However, Chance is the trickster's joke on Mother Nature. Chance is where change comes to the fork in the road and real magic can happen. Chance is where change becomes personal and we can sign our name on it.
This game embodies both of these powerful elements. Its goal is to help us to see ourselves in the midst of change. How do we handle Change? How do we deal with each other in the midst of Change? How do we plan for the future when the present is moving all around us? This game also urges us to take a ride on Chance and to embrace the possibilities of shaping Change into the force we need and want. We hope that the game will illuminate for participants how our continuing challenge as individuals, communities and as nations is to understand the realities of change and the possibilities of chance.
Together. "To-get-here." To Get Here. Maybe the purpose of our togetherness is to combine our thoughts, wishes and dreams right here, right now for tomorrow. So, that we can collectively shape the future, for "To Get Here" is only the first step of "To Get There."
Homer Jackson is an interdisciplinary artist using images, sounds, text, live performance, video, audience participation and found objects to tell stories. Jackson has initiated and served as project director for numerous arts and humanities projects and has received multiple grants and awards from sources including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation and a Pew Fellowship.