Summer '73 Research Assembly
Congregation "A" Plenary
1. Here is a very ancient story. When he was nine
John noticed how popular the strolling acrobats were who frequented
the fairs. He decided to teach himself a few tricks. He learned
to juggle several balls in the air, a little tumbling and walking
a tight rope. Though he never became an expert, after some practice
he was able to attract a crowd. He gave a performance, however,
only on the condition that it begin and end with a prayer. And
during the intermission he regaled his audience with what he could
remember of the Sunday sermon, which in his version was more animated
than it had been in the original delivery by the priest. As he
grew more proficient his audience grew. And while he always had
an ulterior motive, as was obvious to everyone, it was also obvious
that he thoroughly enjoyed what he was doing. His life principle
was to have all the fun you like as long as you do not commit
2. This is another ancient story. When ancestral kings corrupted their captains, the church blessed both the captains and the kings. The court jester got laughs simply by sniffing the troubled air, implying that the stink in the herring begins in its head. In times like our own it is not surprising to find men and women crowding the night clubs in the hope of seeing someone sniff the air. In such times clowns become wits.
3. I entered the Cabaret the other night with awesome expectation. At first I found it rather weird in there. When the band began to play I was excited and I anticipated that something was going to happen. I felt myself getting lighter. I sensed myself wanting to participate in something. When those three stages lit up and the girls came on I was exhilarated with the possibilities. For me that was a Cabaret, the beginning of a great evening. But I am not interested in talking about what a great evening we had at the Cabaret. I want to talk about what Cabaret is.
4. This is the time of the Cabaret again. This is a time of resurgence. This is a time when there is what you might call an assault of Being. There is so much Being that it seems to spill out all over the place and you do not know what to do with it. The kind of possibilities in resurgence simply overwhelm me. Yet when you talk about a time of resurgence you are not talking about the direction that resurgence of the fullness of Being is going to take. Resurgence can be either demonic or filled with authentic humanness. Somehow that new burst of life will be focused either to the reduction of humanness or to the fullness of humanness. There has to be a body of people in history to decide what direction it goes. I think of the time of Hitler as a bubbling forth of resurgence. If you have read anything about that time you know there was a bursting forth of creativity, a new sense of hope and a new sense of purpose. Someone took hold of that and gave it a form. The rest of that history we know about. Man is going to invest his new capacity, one way or the other.
5. The Guild, which you have been dealing with, is that dynamic already forming afresh. The question is how is it going to take form in such a way that it will deal adequately with the world we have on our hands, to give it the new spirit depth and new sociological form? That is the issue as we seize the new possibility that is happening in our time. Men are going to expend their newfound joy in the resurgence of life. Sanctification is the articulation of the image of what full humanness means in the midst of resurgence. The Cabaret is the dynamic through which we beckon man to participate in the resurgence that is present. The Cabaret shows forth what authentic humanness is and can be.
6. There are many things that the Cabaret is not. The Cabaret is not an amateur night, but a highly disciplined art form. The Cabaret is not propaganda 1lbut the unveiling of the actual situation to reveal the transparency of life. The Cabaret is not a substitute for the liturgy but the latent public liturgy of the people. The Cabaret is not an excuse for a sensual plunge, but the recovery of physical existence and the ontology of sex. The Cabaret is not simply a fun thing to do but a serious and carefully constructed revolutionary tool. The Cabaret is not a tactic primarily for the church, but a tactic of the church's ministry in the world. The Cabaret is not a threeact play but a montage of life's thrust. The Cabaret is not a group of artists getting their significance but people giving their servanthood for humanity. The Cabaret is not a cynical commentary but a dramatization of the human folly. The Cabaret is not a romantic message but a drama of hope.
7. In our brooding on the Cabaret we are out to be the guinea pigs in giving form to resurgence and to beckon men forward to get hold of that which can be a tool in the hands of the Guild to awaken communities. That is awesome, exciting and also terrifying. The Cabaret is something we are creating. We are taking the word "Cabaret" and looking at those dynamics throughout history and reinterpreting those dynamics in terms of the times in which we live. The Cabaret is not simply an event on Saturday night. It comes out of the overlay on the social situation and it has what you might call episodes, and it has events like Saturday nights. Episodes are like the little Cabarets which go on around the edges here. These are the events that happen in the bus station when transparency illumines a man's life with some kind of comedy, some kind of choreography or some kind of satire that awakens men to the depth of their own being and gives them back their passion for life.
8. The Cabaret is closely related to the circus, but they are not the same. I cannot quite imagine clowns in the Cabaret. We have had both these dynamics going on here this summer. The circus dynamic enables a man to come to terms with his fear of death, or his limits. You just think of the circus. You sit there in the seat and watch the liontamer and you are thrown back upon the whole question of your own existence. You watch those trapeze artists swinging across that empty space and the question of your own limits comes back upon you with full force. The Cabaret is permission to come to terms with your fear of life, with the possibilities in your existence.
9. It has always had elements like music, satire, comedy and the dance. These are the primary elements that go together to create an art form that addresses men and in which men celebrate life. One of the things that happens in a Cabaret is that a man is seduced to hope. There is seduction in a Cabaret. It is not head on. It is not a seminar, but a beckoning. That is one of the primary elements in the creation of the Cabaret. It seduces and beckons the hope that is already latent within people in our time. It only takes a little flicker to rebeckon the hope that for many years has been stifled within our own being. The Cabaret is about that task. It beckons man to participate in the wonder, in a miracle of life. It is not in the first instance something outside of life, but an intensification in the drama of life itself.
10. The Cabaret begins with a note of expectation to awaken this kind of hope. Do you remember Cervantes in Man From La Mancha? Do you remember when he goes down into that pit? There is hopelessness. You see those hungry, starved for food but for life. He goes down there and opens an anticipation. He creates those funny horses and a kind of mystery, an anticipation. He creates a hope that allows him to speak about the dynamics, the struggles and the realities of life which they had forgotten could ever happen to them again. In this time of resurgence man is waiting for life. The Cabaret is that which allows him to participate in that mystery of life.
11. In the movie Cabaret, the Master of Ceremonies sings that song, "why stay home in your room? Come to the Cabaret. Come to the Cabaret." Come to life, is what he is singing. There is in the power of the music, as the mystery and awe begin to take hold of people, a kind of invitatory, inviting people into life. You are not inviting them out of life. This is one of the critical matters in creating the Cabaret that we of the church intend to create for all society. You invite people into the Other World in the midst of this world. That is not some fairy tale illusion, not some sentimental universe, not some sentimental universe but an intensification of exactly the way life is. For life is mystery and awe and possibility and hope. Music plays a powerful role in doing that inviting.
12. Another part of the Cabaret is having your life exposed to judgment, You are not talking about some kind of moralistic judgment, for there is no moralism in the Cabaret. It is the judgment of society itself. It is the judgment that a man discovers when he sees the folly and the collapse of his own life acted out in the satire of the Cabaret. The Cabaret always speaks of the universal when it talks about judgment, never about the particular or the reduced. It is not a Cabaret if it is simply talking to the boys in the club about their own events in 1ife.
13. True satire or true Cabaret always talks about all of life. Charlie Weaver used to read 1etters from his mother on his television show. But that was not just his mother. It was your mother and everybody else's mother. What you experienced there was universal motherhood caring about her sons. Cabaret always deals with that dimension of life. The Cabaret always has the element of tension and that is what I want to point to as judgment. It is never a Cabaret when it falls into hedonism. The Cabaret not only celebrates the joys of life, or the sensuous in life, though that is there and that is part of life. But if it gets reduced to that it is not Cabaret for it is not talking about the totality of life. Nor is it Cabaret if it only deals with the sentimental, that which never has the hard stuff of life in it.
14. Do you remember the judgment which appeared in the movie Cabaret, The Master of Ceremonies sings a song to the gorilla, "Why can't you see her as I do?" It is funny, and that is the wonder of satire in the Cabaret. You think it is funny. Then that closing line breaks in, "She doesn't look Jewish at all." Suddenly, you are no longer an audience out there watching some action up front. You are pulled in. You are involved. The whole question of life is thrown back at you, not to you individually, but to you sociologically, to the whole corporate group. The consensus of a whole body of people is being formed in the activity of the element of Judgment that goes on in the Cabaret. When we had the Cabaret I would have been terrified if that singer had come over to me and said, "Hey, why don't you come up and sing that to her?" Then the whole thing gets thrown back to you about how you relate to the totality of existence. Satire is not cynicism. It is affirmation. It is the celebration of life.
15. Laughin attempted to do this on television, but it never came off because it turned cynical. It never affirmed the foibles of life in the way churchmen who create the Cabaret have decided to affirm life in our time. For the Cabaret is never an attempt to escape from this, but is the building of consciousness, the metamorphosis of your lucidity. There is a new awareness that judgment is the given, the wonder and the mystery of your existence. Perhaps it is in a place like this that the gnostic who participates in the Cabaret gets most deeply addressed.
16. Or, the Cabaret is always sociological. It always touches the edge of what it means to live in this world, and to transpose that and deepen it and make it transparent. The gnostic tries to get away from life in this world. In the Cabaret he sees this laid before him and affirmed. He is given the possibility cf coming out of himself and laughing and rejoicing and celebrating the pain and wonder of that sociological reality which is expressed in the satire. It is the satire that exposes the idolatry. Remember the "money, money, money" song in Cabaret? The idolatries of man are exposed in that, always tangentially, never as propaganda. You are left with the question of what that means, though the people who produced it know why they decided to move that way and not some other way in creating the art form to elicit the resurgence of spirit. That is one dynamic of the Cabaret. It is the satire which allows you to move beyond the judgment, to formulate the community awareness.
17. Another aspect of the Cabaret is what I call the teasing, a kind or teas1ng that leads to healing. This is the element of comedy. These do not go in sequence in the Cabaret. They are all mixed in together like a montage. And the laughter of the comedy gives permission to live the absurd. It gives permission to laugh at yourself, to stand present to the absurdities of life and discover that the joke of life is on you, and that it is a wonder which can be embraced. The jokes are universal, about every man, so that the brokenness and crushedness of life come back to me in the objectivity of laughter in such a way that I can appropriate it. That becomes the healing word which is the mercy in the midst of life. It is a strange kind of wholeness in the midst of brokenness which I want to call tranquillity. Maybe it is the stoic who is most deeply addressed in the comedy of the Cabaret, for the stoic knows that life is broken, but he finds his meaning in taking his stance over against the brokenness. But here he is in the presence of those who are acting out this drama, knowing exactly what he knows, and yet they find the capacity to laugh at and rejoice in the comedy that life is. Perhaps that is a way of releasing the passion of the stoic. He is given a new permission. Trapped in his own lucidity he discovers he can laugh at himself.
18. I never liked celebrations much. The first time I went to a Cabaret I became very selfconscious of my stoicism. It was the girls who drew me in. They exposed to me my stoicism and beckoned me out of my hiding place to celebrate life and to laugh at the brokenness of my own existence, the foolishness of my own foibles. It was not because they told me about them, but because I saw that they could be celebrated. The stoic is the one who is addressed in that kind of situation. The Cabaret portrays experiences which touch the human deeps in life and teases people into participating in the healing dynamic of celebration.
19. Finally, the Cabaret is that which I want to call euphoria. You experience that as a wondrous exhilaration. When one is seized in judgment and discovers the mercy that life is sustained in the midst of all of the confusion and brokenness then he is released into passion, into expenditure. I do not mean just passion as a feeling, but as a decision. I watched people come out of the Cabaret the other night, and twothirds of them had to stop at the dance floor and dance first. I intended to go right on to dinner, but I did not, because there was some kind of decision that happened within me about participation in life. The dancing celebrated and acted out for me the kind of decisional release which the Cabaret anticipates. The motivity was there, acted out in dancing on the way to dinner. Man today is yearning to have something into which he can throw his passion, and release the motivity to creatively release the drive within him, and direct it toward the future. The Cabaret hints at that possibility for man today. It provides the opportunity of dramatizing that decision.
20. The Cabaret also portrays the corporateness. You experience the corporateness of those dancers. You see the servanthood of those waitresses. That servanthood, the giving of themselves to the customers, elicits life, awakens their responses and gives them back that which is there but which they have never seen before. Remember the song, "Maybe Next Time." The passion of that song beckons forth possibilities. "Nobody likes a loser. Maybe next time." That song elicits risk, even in the failure of the past to go on to the future.
21. Every man today is fundamentally a caring person. Resurgence takes that as a premise. The LENS course gives back to people the awareness that they are caring people. Men have had so many failures in programs of sociological care for the world, because of the inadequacy of method, that they tell themselves the story that they are not caring people. At the end of the LENS course there is an exhilaration. It is not because they have done great writing but because they discover they are caring persons. We have within us the decision to risk and expend the life that has been given.
22. That is part of what Cabaret is all about. "To Dream the Impossible Dream," and "All The Goods of The Earth," are songs which beckon forth a response. You were beckoned forth. You were drawn in. You were pulled into a decision. And you can be pulled into a decision only because you have already made that decision. Cabaret cannot make those decisions for you. Cabaret presents to you and the community the decisions about life that you have already made, but keep hidden out of fear of life itself. This is critical. Perhaps the dance most adequately does that kind of beckoning as a symbol of a fulfilled lifestyle, as permission given to demonstrate the actingout of passion for all men. Both elements seem to me to be critical. The words care and utopia come to mind. That is dreaming the impossible dream, and climbing every mountain. That is the visioning without which any community or society dies.
23. I think of Pete Seeger who wrote "A New Day." I never liked Pete Seeger because he was a romantic. But now I realize that at a time when no one had vision that man belted out those songs and gave vision, in spite of the romanticism. Now we have methods and tools to fulfill the vision that he saw. That is the utopian dream. That is the vision without which a man does not live. We are now in a time of resurgence when dreamers are being born. The Cabaret beckons forth that kind of dreaming.
24. These elements are a part of creating the kind of Cabaret that must go across the face of this earth. It is not present anywhere now. We have traveled around looking and there are elements of Cabaret in many night clubs. But the Cabaret is not a night club show. Night club shows are performances on a stage, and you are out front as an audience. They only intensify your stoicism. The Cabaret is that which beckons you. There is no audience. People of the Cabaret are all humanity and I as the Cabaret actor am the one who is expending my life on behalf of every man.
25. Wouldn't it be strange if through the kind of work we are doing here we could rebuild the Cabaret in local communities, where every Saturday night people would come forth with a new sense of possibility? You are not out to turn them into selfconscious churchmen. That is not the issue. The Cabaret is the church turning to the world. Something happens to people that transforms their lives.
26. A few weeks ago a group of us went down to a place called The Beef and Brew. We decided before we went that we were going to be a Cabaret dynamic in that restaurant. There was a table of people next to us we had never seen before. But we began to get involved with them. We literally drew those people into our environs and they had an exhilaration about their own life that they had never known before. He went to leave in the blue bus but when we opened the door to get in those eight people all jumped in the bus with us. They said, "You can't leave us. We have to spend the evening with you." So we were a Cabaret in that bus, all over the city of Chicago. We sang songs and did satires. When we took them back and let them out they said, "We have never had an evening like this in our whole lives. It is like a new life." And we never knew their names.
27. People are changed when they experience authentic
Cabaret. They are changed in the life they are now going to live
in this world. For the authentic Other World has happened in their
world and they have seen the transparency. That is what Cabaret
is about. Life is a Cabaret. And we who are the creators of the
Guild are the ones who are called to create the Cabaret which
will give authentic human form to the resurgence of our time.