You can’t touch it or buy it or cut it with a knife, but you’ll know it when you see it.
And last night, I got to witness it in spades. With red column lighting, crimson lip gloss and hot pink pashminas.
Eve at Grace. Eve Ensler, Tony award-winning playwright, performer and activist electrified Grace Cathedral’s labyrinthed space as she spoke with incredible courage and intense authenticity about cancer, both as a pivotal part of her personal journey having come out on the other side of it stronger than ever and as a metaphor for the diseases eating away at our collective humanity.
But if you know Eve at all and how invigorating her words are, you’d know that only she could speak about cancer in such an artful, illuminating and evolved way. When you listen to Eve speak, you get a sense that, as good as she looks and as amazing as she is, her mission is not to be a magnificent star on stage (though she is that) but rather:
1) to be the messenger of words so powerful you wish everyone you love were there with you experiencing those same words,
2) to impart a message so resonant that your life will never be the same again,
3) to issue a call to action so impossible to resist that you’ve now become an agent of change galvanizing others to join your cause.
Eve as a force must be experienced in person. Though I couldn’t do her brilliance justice, here’s a sampling of her voice, light and grace:
INDIVIDUALISM IS OVER
Eve invites us to embrace the power of community. Similar to Secretary Hillary Clinton’s call to join the Age of Participation, the sooner we understand that we can’t get anywhere without any help from anyone, the more willing we’ll be to extend ourselves to others.
WE NEED TO KEEP OUR PROMISES
I don’t know about you but I’ve heard big promises. And, attributable to naivete or idealism, I’ve believed many of them. I’ve written checks, I’ve given my vote, I’ve knocked on doors, I’ve talked to many, many strangers hoping to convince them to believe those same promises. But, as you can guess, I’ve been disappointed possibly as much as you have. If we don’t keep our promises, we really can’t expect anyone to keep believing in us or our words.
LOVE WILL SAVE US
This is tricky because love is sometimes misunderstood. Love, at times, is much too exclusive that it leaves out those who need it the most. If we can grasp the true meaning of love, if we can love as deeply as possible and as broadly across oceans and borders and walls, then maybe we can begin to wrap our minds around just how incredibly powerful love is.
These are challenging words to many among us. These words make us avert our gaze, fall silent or cringe, if not downright punch us in the viscera.
But if these words can be uttered in a sacred, quiet space, if these words can be spoken within stained-glass windows of cathedral walls, if these words can echo in a room where the hierarchy of bishops and clergy reigns, then we’ve reached a new paradigm, haven’t we? Here in this new paradigm where imagination just became real, the unthinkable is now thinkable; the impossible is now possible.
The cancer of indifference.
The cancer of apathy.
The cancer of take-take-take greed without giving.
The cancer of me-me-me narcissism and caring about no one else.
This inner strength that Eve showed us last night in that sold out 1000-seat space, the inner strength that moved all of us to rise to our feet — I believe we recognized what it was when we saw it because it is the reflection of that same inner strength that lies within each of us. It’s there, lying dormant yet, with a little help from others in the context of community called earth, it can be awakened to beat the cancer that threatens to erode our humanity — to affirm all that is good and to save all that is worth saving.
If you’re interested in exploring Eve’s brilliance, check out V-Day’s website, read her books, listen to her TED talks or watch her plays.