Latent Joy





Inside Everyone

Is a Great Shout of Joy

Waiting to be born


- excerpt from ''Winter of Listening'' - a poem by David Whyte


Last March I attended a conference in LA on mass incarceration. The actor/director Tim Robbins was there along with actor Sabra Williams. They are the founders of the Actors Gang Prison Project (AGPP), that I have written about before in this blog.


Sabra said that in the prison yard the only allowable emotions are anger and numbness. They're prison project gives space for inmates (many gang-involved) to explore the full range of their emotions and therefore get more in touch with their past and a deep experience of empathy for others.


The CA state recidivism rate is 50%. 1 out of every 2 inmates return within 3 years. This is on par with the national numbers. Grads of the AGPP have only a 10.6% recidivism rate. Additionally there grads have an 89% drop in disciplinary infractions. They have come to viscerally experience a wider range of possibilities in how to express themselves.


Some experience Joy for the first time.

And experience the pleasure of experiencing others Joy.


I had that experience when I was a chaplain in the Skagit County Jail. On one visit, the guards were late in coming to get the men from the room we were in. I offered, "Wanna play an improv game?" So I played the Clap Circle game, where you pass the clap around the circle, back around, and then go anywhere. It creates a sense of connection, rhythm, feeling of being competent with others. And every time I lead it, smiles and laughter ensue.


And this time was no exception. The man to my left, Mitch*, was howling with joy. There was no joke being told, no humor. Rather it was purely being in the moment with others, connected with them, being supported with them.


And in that moment he was free.


And I felt the joy of experiencing his latent joy emerge.


What holds you back from feeling joy? Too naive? Too many other things to worry about?


How can you create the conditions where joy is likely to emerge?


And how is Joy fuel for your Life?


I would argue its nourishment that fuels us, sustains, and a coheres us to be resilient individuals and communities.



*name changed


#joyasfuel #appliedimprov #actorsgangprisonproject #incarceration #joy

15 views

©2020 David Westerlund