A Moment of Catharsis

A moment of catharsis today. Yup, I had about half an hour of wonderful catharsis today. Can’t wait to tell you all about it. It was so much fun discovering something new in my life.

I came to see a speaker today who gave a talk about Telling Dongeng. I came in with nothing in mind about what I was about to experience. No presumption whatsoever ahead of time. I was never even the type of person interested in dongeng and never had any adult telling me dongeng when I was a kid. Dongeng is Bahasa Indonesia for tale, fairy tale, or myth stories. It is usually told to kids. The speaker was teaching those of us who work with children and to adults who are interested to use dongeng in their line of work. It was held at a small after-school program across the street from where I work. The speaker was EXCELLENT! He never had any specific training about dongeng, but has been interested in the subject for over 20 years and pretty much taught himself about it. He is also a ventriloquist and showed us his skills.

The speaker has one unique characteristic about him and to a certain degree I think this characteristic has made him even better in the way he tells his dongeng. He’s blind. He wasn’t born blind, but contacted a virus that slowly took away his eyesight during his early adult years while he was still in college. He is probably now in his early 40s, so he has been blind for quite some time. He always loves telling stories and has quite an artistic talent. When he still had his eyesight, he also took up a training in acting and had even taken some acting jobs.

The training he gave ran for about 3 hours, and it has been a while since I had a very wonderful 3 hours that ran by so fast because I had so much fun. He started by introducing himself, explaining about his passion in telling stories, especially dongeng to little kids. He also talked about his experience telling dongeng to street kids, poor kids, kids who were born in brothels, and children who have been abused in his life, sexually or physically. His message to us, which I can still hear it well until now, is for us to never give up hope in trying to save or make a difference in the children of this country, and we can do that by as simple as telling stories, engaging children in stories, sending right and powerful messages to children through stories. Simple, yet strong, message.

After talking about his background and dongeng in general while modeling to us too a few examples of telling dongeng, he then asked us if we could start telling dongeng to each other. No response. There was silence among us. Some finally said no, including me. The speaker then, in his very comical way of talking (and he was very very very funny, by the way), changed his strategy and made us do two activities. The first one was meditation. He led us through a short meditation session with the purpose of emptying our mind and putting us into a relaxing mood. It wasn’t hypnosis, but just a simple breathing meditation. He had two assistants with him, and one of them used a laptop to play meditation music.

The second activity (and here comes the fun!) was an acting activity, but with a twist. He asked all of us to cover our eyes, to not rely on our eyes when we were playing the roles, but to simply ignore our surroundings and just act. This is where I think his uniqueness of being blind has influenced him, and he graciously shared that one uniqueness of his with us for one short moment. We all became blind for a moment, and then we were asked to pretend to be many roles and talk to someone in front of us.

At first I felt so awkward, weird, and embarrassed. Although I couldn’t see anything, I could still hear everyone. My hearing, if anything, became sharper. I could hear giggling everywhere. It was probably mine too, who knows. Then I heard the first instruction, “Be a policeman. Say anything, do whatever you want. You are now a policeman.” First I heard a hesitation around me, as if everyone was thinking. About 5 seconds later I started hearing someone said something. I was probably still giggling, too embarrassed to do anything, but I did try something. I acted as if I was stopping someone from riding his/her motorcycle, asking the person to step down, and making him to show his ID. Then the instruction changed, but I couldn’t remember what was the second role. It changed every 1 minute. All I know there’s a long list of roles given to us and here are some roles that I remember: a beggar, abang becak or a pedicab driver, a robber, and a prostitute. We were also asked to be a child, a very bad and insubordinate child, a child who just lost his/her mom and truly feeling the emotion to the point of crying, a mother, a grandmother, a grandfather, a man with deep voice, a little child with a little voice, a singing child, an angry person, a mad person acting crazy, laughing so loud, singing a dangdut song (dangdut is a genre of Indonesian popular music that is partly derived from Malay, Arab, and Hindustani music according to Wikipedia), a crying child, a girl trying to seduce a man, and so on. My favorite one of the entire list of roles was the laughing part. Now, that’s what I called a true catharsis. I was laughing my ass off, people! I was laughing so hard that I lost my voice afterwards.

You know, for an activity where I started off in the beginning very timid and awkward, I was surprisingly feeling like I wanted more when it ended. I truly got into it and loved it! I tell you what too, sometimes activities like this one that you truly don’t have any idea or presumption of what it is about is the one that truly surprises you. I was so glad that I came to the training, even if it meant that I had a very long working day…on a Saturday. It was worth it!

If anyone has not tried any acting exercise, I recommend you to try it. I realize that it’s not easy for everyone. A co-worker of mine who was standing right next to me was one of those people who couldn’t really get into it. She is a very disciplined person, somewhat more rational in her approach to things compared to the rest of us. She uses logic all the time, and to move from one part of the brain that relies on logic to the other part that focuses more on creativity was not easy for her. Regardless, she still enjoyed the whole acting exercise. Whoever and whatever type you are, I still recommend you to try this once in your life. It’s very…cathartic. 🙂


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