jump to navigation

Occupy this. October 13, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , ,

Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I went to see our friend Rob’s son Christian perform in a play last night in scenic Bethlehem, PA. The play was called “Occupy Your Mind,” and ir was held at the local Unitarian Church, with proceeds going to benefit the startup Bethlehem Food Co-Op. Well, OFB and I are all for food co-ops, and this was only our second chance to see Christian act, so we were very eager to go.

But, okay, what was “Occupy Your Mind” about? Clearly the title was a play on the Occupy movement that dominated the news through much of 2011. I thought that it might be a clever nudge in the direction of actually thinking for ourselves, or even thinking at all, as opposed to being spoon-fed whatever lines the “news” source of our choice chose to feed us. It’s always seemed to me and OFB that occupying our minds to the fullest extent possible was a marvelous (not to mention free) way to experience the richness and diversity of human culture, experience and thought.

But as far as the play’s topic was concerned, I was very much mistaken. I realized this when I saw a tent pitched in front of the Unitarian Church. Upon entering the building, we saw classic Occupy signs set up along the walls, such as “I couldn’t afford my own politician so I made this sign” and “None of them are in jail so why are we bailing them out?” and “Corporations are not people” (amen).

 Turns out, the play is a dramatization of interviews with people who participated in the Occupy protests, with actors voicing one of the interviewees in monologues directed to the audience (which is typically perceived as a group of fellow Occupiers). Each actor tells how s/he came to be there, what s/he hoped to give to the movement, and what, as it turned out, s/he received in return, which usually turned out to be acceptance, a sense of community, and the formation of family ties based on the closeness of people living together and united in a common cause.

The actors are quite talented and their stories are very moving. I felt myself tearing up several times. This was the last thing I’d expected, either from the play or from the Occupy movement. And of course, all I could think about was the Hippie movement way back in the Sixties.

By the time I came along, Hippies were part of the cultural nostalgia: “Flower Power,” peace and love, “White Rabbit” and Joni Mitchell, long hair, long dresses, and flowers in your hair. The idea of Hippie protests, sit-ins and the like against racial injustice, the Vietnam War, and etc. had vanished like smoke after the spectacular fire of the flowering of the Counterculture. But when I saw “Occupy Your Mind,” I gained insight into the mindset of the Hippies in a way I never would have had I not seen the play. 

I’ve always loved the Hippie era because of the idealism and the rich, marvelous cultural renaissance that defined it, especially in music, art, style and furnishings. I don’t regret not being there: Those of us who came after have had the luxury of taking the best (from our individual perspective) and leaving the rest for others or the scrap heap of history. They left us a very rich legacy on which to draw. (For me, the epitome may be Laurel’s Kitchen and Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” but those Gunne Saxe dresses aren’t far behind.)

Getting back to the play, I could easily see the same format adapted to give voice to the Hippie protesters, or concentration camp survivors, or pretty much any group with a story to tell. The performances were strong and moving, and even if you aren’t a fan of Hippies, much less the Occupy movement, I can guarantee that this play will “Occupy Your Mind” and give you plenty to think about. Tonight is the final performance, so if you live within driving distance of Bethlehem, note that it’s at 7:30 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lehigh Valley, 424 Center Street, Bethlehem PA 18018, 610-866-7652. If you go, please let us know what you think!

             ‘Til next time,