Monthly Archives: January 2017

Promises to Tomorrow #4: Play

The more I play today the more silt I am laying down in the river of play for tomorrow … or that is the how the logic goes in the parallel universe of compassionate imagination (thank you Phil Porter co-founder of InterPlay for sowing the seeds of these thoughts and practices with Agnotti Cowie this week). Being playful, and mischievousness break through. In this era of alternative facts, fake news and post truth brings multiple platforms to play.

Being able to laugh (even on the inside) is a way to inoculate yourself from some of the harm of the powers of evil. Satire is a gift to get through hard times – the first all Aboriginal TV show Basically Black in 1973 introduced us to Super Boong, the first Aboriginal Super Hero, it took another couple of generations before Cleverman came to our screens and breathtakingly took us all (not just one person in trouble) to a new place to save the planet (can’t wait for the next series).

Play can reveal, camouflage, inspire, transcend. Without play we don’t learn how to get along with others, build our muscles and find interesting ways to use our bodies and our brains. Play helps us find out what works, form habits and attitudes, beliefs and trust. Play is essential in our human development. Play is sometimes called the “universal language of childhood”. I will often play peek a boo with a child on public transport, even one a few rows away they usually pick it up in a few moments.

Play is too important to be left at the school gate. It gets codified into sport, or the arts as we grow older and improvisation is left to everything other than play! We improvise through the rest of our adult lives, so why not in play too! One of my favourite living poets, David Whyte says with a chuckle directing listeners and fellow poets: “just follow the instructions as if you know what I meant when I gave them to you; isn’t that what you do anyhow all the time?” I have stolen this instruction more than once when working with groups – it is liberating advice.

Playing for play’s sake and noticing the instructions embedded in the experience, allowing the body to be teacher and mind to be taught, allowing the spirit within to be released and captured in a thought not yet fully formed, to be revealed in a contemplative moment – this is the essence of an improvisation practice known as interplay.

Start in small ways …. Instead of for pity (insert your vernacular expletive here) sake – say for play sake. Next time you walk through the security screening at an airport – say Ta Da with outstretched hands or do a pirouette as you exit. Tap dance your way into a lift. Say yes and when you want to disagree and add your own layer to the conversation. Respond to an email with a made up poem. Talk in gibberish when you are lost of words.

I dip into the InterPlay well each year.  To play is a gift and one not to be taken for granted. My promise to tomorrow is to do more playing, to recognise play as a way of exercising and holding power; as a way to unlock possibilities for resistance, resilience, fun and whole-heartedness. I also promise to know and understand the power of play has inherent qualities like following and leading.



Here is a John O’Donohue blessing for one who holds power.

And a few thoughts from past blogs



Promises to Tomorrow #3: Beyond Usual Suspects

This week my promise to the future is encoded in tears and resolve. I awoke to the sounds of cats fighting and possums ducking out of the way and in between the hissing and screeching the starlight flooded the spaces between the vertical blinds. It was 2.30am and on the other side of the world in cosmic harmony a seismic moment was being had on Pennsylvania Avenue. I turned on the computer to watch the 45th President of the USA be sworn into office. The pomp and ceremony followed and it was hard to find any faces in the choirs and people gathered that were non-white – there were a few – but not many. I in-canted Pastor Neimoller’s famous words hoping and praying I might need them in the future, but promising I will carry the words more closely than I have for a while – our shared future depends on our ability to organise, speak out, stand up and not for those like us but those not like us.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


I understand the people of the USA have made a choice in a less than equal way of casting their vote and with the shadow of Jim Crow hanging over the electoral process. And while I understand and deeply respect and am impressed by the nonviolent transition of power, this is not a time for complacency, it is a time for reform. We have the lessons of Brexit, Trump’s election, rise of the right in France, Germany, the legitimacy of MPs such as Pauline Hanson in my own country. The primacy of putting your own country and people first, has moved a patriotic act to far right nationalism and the slow sleepwalking drift in a nation as comfortable as Australia into something more sinister is not a big leap.

For our first nations people they have already witnessed and been the victims of colonialism and another generations willingness to outsource its misfits and poor half way across the world.

I am making a promise to understand more history to be better informed about how wars start, is it with a misunderstanding? A mistranslation? I wonder if a lot start by, mistake. It feels to me like we are in a frog in hot water situation, the water is getting hotter every day and by the time we could jump out of the bowl, it will be way too late. Vigilance is our friend, the first track on the playlist is “fired up, ready to go” and the list of names on the roll is waiting for you to sign up and sing up a solidarity storm. We have got to stop talking to people who think just like us we have to reach out to those that aren’t like us, go beyond the usual suspects to build new coalitions and find the edges where we can connect and build a bridge to the future with bricks of solidarity – because this isn’t Oz Dorothy and history should not be repeating itself.


P#2 Promises to Tomorrow: Listening to the young

When Archbishop Tutu wanted to accelerate the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, there was a point, when he decided to spend his time only talking and listening to young people, people under 30. He felt that they were the ones who would be inheriting a post apartheid South Africa and so needed to understand what they could do together to create that future. This week in Chicago President Obama gave clear confidence and instruction to young people:

This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something not to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.

It is imperative we listen to children and young people, to understand why they are making the choices they are making. In volunteering they are putting their energy into environmental pursuits, leaving the services like Meals on Wheels to the retired; in the way they spend their time, they are giving some to themselves and more to being together with peers than any other generation sharing and connecting in such constant ways through social media and in real time; with their finances they are building new collaborative economies where access is more important than ownership. As the first generation of digital natives they are wired differently and have different priorities. Debt and cost of living, means they are more likely to save for an experience than a house. They are better informed about health and well-being and are spending more time and money investing in their bodies than previous generations. These trends exist world-wide and although there are definitely inequities and gaps in countries and between countries – these are still the general trends of a generation. Those born in the 1990s are coming of age now and leaving their youth and as they start to enter their 30s will be having their own children.

Children being born today are asking questions that were hidden in previous generations. An 11 year old I know who is the grandson of a dear friend of mine asked his mother a question this week:

If a person doesn’t identify as either male or female, when they or their partner has a baby, how do they decide if they are a mother or a father – can anyone have an opinion for example could one child call them mum but the other child call them dad, based on how they view that parent?

This is a question that might not have been asked in any generation before his.

My promise to the future is I will be curious and look for ways to listen in to younger people and children. I will pay attention to what they are saying on line, their art, the books they are reading, movies they are watching, games they are playing, questions they are asking. This means I need to be in places where I can hear, see and be exposed to their voices and find ways to bring them to my attention.

The young voice, the young mind, inspires and encourages. And for those who are in despair, grieving, abused or confused, we need to hear that too and animate, embolden and support them to take the steps they need to take to turn that around; or get out of the way so they can do it themselves, or move a barrier on their behalf. When you don’t have children in your life, you are not exposed to their wonder and awe at the world, and seeing the world through a child’s eyes does let you see the twinkle in the star.

Building optimism is essential to building a resilient generation, with depression in epidemic proportions amongst teens and young adults, I wonder if there is a correlation between that phenomena and not being heard? Paying attention to the early warning signs, that may not be voiced; asking simple questions like are you OK?; offering up a support when you detect one might be needed even if it is rejected is a sign you are sending that you are listening, noticing.

As a person in the older generation I promise to be a builder of hope. I will hold an expectation of potential and have a desire to listen to their questions with confidence those questions are planting seeds of tomorrow.


Yes we can – Clare and Archie Jan 2017

#1 Promises to Tomorrow: Making a Promise

This year’s blog is all about making promises to the future. This first post is a scene-setter.

What is a promise if not a commitment to pay it forward? It is a declaration of following through on a pledge, making good an intention. A promise is an act of hope, often an act of defiance and a forecast. A promise sits in today with recognition of fulfilment coming in a tomorrow.

When we show signs of promise, the potential is what we celebrate and we look forward to the harvest. Embedded in the promise is the seed and the bloom. The journey for a promise to be realised is often fragile, vulnerable and under threat. There are real dangers, snags and fears lying under the surface of a promise.

Each week I am going to explore a promise to the future – sometimes it will be personal, sometimes planetary and sometimes completely ‘off the wall’. I don’t know what they are yet … but I do promise they will unfold.

Every morning I wake to the twitter and chatter of birdsong – some in captivity and some in the wild. They promise the dawn is coming and a new day is rising from the dark. They sing of successfully making it through the night and chorus a welcome to a new beginning. They are steadfast in their expectation of all that they need will be provided and sourced from their surrounds. They promise the future will be there. The screech of the sulphur crested cockatoo surely started in the Jurassic era in the shape of a pterodactyl – from those earliest of times making a promise to survive and evolve. Birds were all dinosaurs once and birdsong is the foundation of all music that in turn is the foundation of song and words. The promise to tomorrow in the chatter of the morning continues to unfold. The music of their calls finds its way from their bodies to join with the other noises making a soundscape for the day to begin. Without effort they tell go of their song.

To Make a Promise.

Make a place of prayer, no fuss,
just lean into the white brilliance
and say what you needed to say
all along, nothing too much, words
as simple and as yours and as heard
as the bird song above your head
or the river running gently beside you,
let your words join to the world
the way stone nestles on stone
the way the water simply leaves
and goes to the sea,
the way your promise
breathes and belongs
with every other promise
the world has ever made.

Now, leave them to go on,
let your words alone
to carry their own life,
without you, let the promise
go with the river.
Have faith. Walk away.
To make a Promise
From ‘Prayer after Prayer’
© David Whyte & Many Rivers Press

Post Script: Our beloved sulphur crested cockatoo, Joe 50+ years in the family died in May 2017


Dancing with Speeches #52 Leia Organa

All the speeches that were danced with in 2016 have been sourced from the real world. Today, for the final speech of the year, the fictional Senator Organa’s last speech to the Senate of the New Republic is chosen from Star Wars. It is set 28 years after the Battle of Yavin where the assembly of Senators are gathered and are addressed by Leia as a fellow citizen. This is a war dance.

My Fellow Citizens,

War is arriving. We can choose to ignore all the signs or to hope it away – but that does not stop the truth – war is arriving. It will be a war for tomorrow borne from the decisions of the past and fought in the truth of today.

It is time for battle – a battle with the dark side – the dark side of ourselves that has brought us to this place where our hopes for freedom, liberty and justice are now coming back to strangle us in new forms.

The old adage “ be careful what you wish for” is transmuting and we are now paying a high cost for that wish. No longer are we bound by familial ties, tribal ties … the tie that binds us together and indeed the only one that ever has … is our mutual bond to each other as citizens.

There is a threat on the edge of our galaxy. A threat greater than anything we have ever dreamt up by ourselves or collectively. Tyranny and fear are on our doorstep. Those leaders who have gone to the edge to pioneer new paths and find themselves lost, without power, without a compass return shattered, if they return at all. We are on the brink of war. To pretend otherwise is to ignore all the signs. A new shape is forming in our hearts and souls and calling on us to go to deeper and darker places than we have been before. Some of us may even be seduced by the drums of war. We must be prepared to live in the light, have our hearts filled with love, be willing to embrace the other and be compassionate to our selves and each other when we fail. Because there will be causalities, failures and imperfections – that is the only certainty of the way. Our weapons of mass destruction will be our unified efforts and values.

The unspeakable, unshakeable and undeniable power of the Force is within us all it is the only power we need to get ready for war and combat and defeat our enemy in the internal galaxies of our minds and the external galaxies where we find our dearly beloved planet orbiting around our sun and being orbited by our moons. Our celestial surroundings hold us close, gravitational glue fastening our future. They will be our guides as we go into battle, because my dear fellow citizens, war is coming whether we are ready or not.

It is time to prepare, to build our strength, to call on the force inside each of us, to be ready to face the dark side and defeat the evil of imperial hatred and fear for each and every citizen and for the Republic.