Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Circus Comes to Town!

In three days, the FIC will open its Art of Community Southwest weekend, running May 30-June 1 on the campus of the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque. I’ve been in town since last Wed, and can feel the building energy. They're coming!

For me, participating in a community conference is like going to the circus. There's a festive, time-is-suspended atmosphere where everyone can temporarily set aside their regularly scheduled lives (and protective armor) to create magic together. There will be big top plenaries, five-ring sideshows (concurrent workshops), out-of-town performers, techno-wizardry, and entertainment galore. Everything but dancing bears and corn dogs.

The way it's not like a circus is that the Art of Community is about authenticity, not diversion. It's about delivering the tools and inspiration to lead the life you want, rather than delivering a temporary escape from what's not working. Talk about magic: the FIC believes you can bring your life and values into alignment and have a good time. (Our aim is to have you wake up Monday morning with a dream you can act on, not with a feeling that the weekend was just a dream.)

Part of the excitement is that it's a little bit out of control, by which I mean interactive and unscripted. For many, the best parts will happen on the fly: the chance conversations at the bookstore, during coffee breaks, or with the person sitting next to you at that special workshop on how to train wombats to fetch your morning paper. Or with the person bidding against you
for the Caribbean vacation at the Sat night benefit auction—maybe you should do that cruise together.

Sure there's a schedule, and, as a presenter, I'll have an outline of what I want to say. Yet I prefer to work without a net—inviting comments and questions from the audience, looking for the sweet spot where I can ride my enthusiasm on the wave of their curiosity. Just like at any circus, you never know what's going to happen next. The trick of it is trusting that you'll know when to jump on board when those extemporaneous surges come. (My mantra as a workshop improv artist: keep breathing, and trust the magic.)

But I'm getting ahead of myself. This morning I'm not on stage; I'm on call. I'm acting as Boy Tuesday for my wife, Ma’ikwe, who’s the ringmaster for this weekend's event. (I’m typing this in a coffee shop across from campus—appropriately enough, called "Satellite"—where I wait in orbit as her chauffeur while she’s closeted with her A/V magician, Derek Roff.)

This afternoon Registrar Donna Berry arrives by train from Minnesota, the first of the out-of-state organizing team to arrive, and we've scheduled a power dinner with her and Site Manager Peggy Loftfield (a Albuquerque local and 13-year FIC veteran) at the Chama River Brew Pub, to continue the ferment, so to speak. (Don't you just love the circus?)

Ma'ikwe woke up this morning in a sense of panic, momentarily thinking it was Wednesday instead of Tuesday (how could she ever get everything done with only 60 hours left 'til show time?). After realizing she'd slipped a gear, she exhaled… then settled into identifying what exactly she needed to accomplish in the next 24 hours to head off that same feeling of panic tomorrow morning—when it really would be Wed.

Can you feel the buzz? I can't say for sure if we'll get everything done in the next three days (or if Ma'ikwe will wake up any morning before next Monday without a knot in her gut),
but I can promise a great time… and who knows when the circus will come again?

The curtain goes up Friday evening and, hey, there's still time to get tickets!

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