Reflections on Intersection – Our 2018 Theme

This year, Spirit & Place is exploring the theme of Intersection, or what happens when two seemingly different forces or topics come together and how that creates differences in power. In advance of this year’s Festival, the Spirit & Place staff is further exporing this theme in their own words. 

Why is intersection a theme Spirit & Place wants to design a Festival around?

“Coming off the POWER year in 2017, we wanted to provide the community the opportunity to explore the ways in which complex issues, ideas, and even power structures, intersect with one another. We thought INTERSECTION might possibly give people the freedom to dig deeper into some of the issues they explored in 2017.“

“Spirit & Place itself thrives at the intersection of art, religion, and humanities and in the places were ideas, people, and organizations connect to make meaning, develop new solutions, and build community. We see these intersections as potent interchanges for creativity, collaboration, and civic conversation. In this way Spirit & Place serves as “bridging capital,” the term Robert Putnam uses to describe he necessary glue of healthy, thriving places.”

Is there a definition of intersection that resonates most with you?

“The artist Piet Mondrian, a 20th century Dutch painter whose work featured simple geometric elements, said, “Vertical and horizontal lines are the expression of two opposing forces; they exist everywhere and dominate everything; their reciprocal action constitutes ‘life.””

“I like how as a noun, “intersection” can mean a place where two roads meet. But if you remove the last three letters of the word it becomes a verb – intersect – which means to cut or divide by passing through. We do not live in a nice, neat, black-and-white world. It’s complex and messy. Subtle differences can mean a great deal and “intersection,” as a word and concept can embody all that.”

What does intersection mean to you (either you as an individual or S&P)?

“To me, intersection is all about a “place of meeting.” That place can be a mutually supportive space where ideas, people, and beliefs complement each other or it can be congested space filled with competing ideas and values. Either way, intersections are places where we need to slow down, assess what’s going on, and work with others to navigate our way through.”

“For me, intersections are opportunities for discovery and relationship-building. The meeting point of differing ideas and people is a powerful place for creation. American businessman and educator Clayton M. Christensen: “Almost always, great new ideas don’t emerge from within a single person or function, but at the intersection of functions or people that have never met before.”

What does S&P hope will come out of an exploration of this theme (event submissions, responses from the community, etc.)?

“As Program Director, my hope is that we’ll see a mash up of unique collaborative partnerships between groups not typically thought to have intersecting interests or identities. I’m a big believer there always connections to be found between people and I’d love for our event partners to model that in their collaborative efforts.”

“What I love about Spirit & Place is that is absolutely impossible to project what will happen. But we do know from 22 years of experience, that creating the opportunity for people to make new connections is a potent tool for strengthening communities and enhancing civic vibrancy.  It’s also my hope that the ideas explored this year will seed ideas for 2019, when our theme is R/EVOLUTION.”

What is an example of an intersection that is most interesting to you?

“I was a big fan of 2017’s POWER theme. So, I’m personally interested in exploring power-related intersections. I’ve currently been doing some research and reading based on Zeynep Tufekci’s work which explores the intersection of power, authority, and (big data/social media) technology.“

“I’m interested in the spiritual and social dimensions of making music, particularly group-singing.  As cofounder of SongSquad and Justice Choir-Indianapolis, I believe that group-singing teaches us to listen to each other more deeply, strengthens and activates our voice in the world, connects us to each other and to what we hold sacred, provides a window to other cultures and traditions, and provides a powerful source of communal joy. And it’s the cheapest form of therapy you can find!“

The list of events for this year’s Spirit & Place Festival will be announced later this summer. Keep an eye on this blog, our website and Spirit & Place’s Facebook and Twitter pages for more information. In the meantime, Spirit & Place encourages you to examine intersections in your own life and community. Where do different forces intersect to create the but, and, or in your life?

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Perfect

by Foosie

I’m only human but that doesn’t diminish my perfection in the slightest. When I was born – I was perfectly loved – and nothing has changed since that day. So, let me be one of the first people to ever tell you that I’m perfect.

Born out of wedlock to an OG who already had two kids by two different Dads…perfect. Born a tone of brown that hasn’t always been held in the highest esteem when it comes to pulchritude…perfect. Big nose…perfect. Big lips…perfect. Gap tooth smile…perfect. The water beads off my skin like candy paint fresh from the carwash…perfect.

Tattoo of a lost soldier on my arm…perfect. Gun powder dust on my sleeves…perfect. A mug shot instead of a graduation picture…perfect. Blood on my hands forever…perfect. I woke up this morning…perfect. I have hope for tomorrow…perfect. I’ve got a story to tell…perfect.

Perfect…Not in thought or in word or in deeds but in reality. Perfectly flawed and perfectly loved. And He is. So am I in this world.

Foosie is an inmate currently living at Plainfield Correctional Facility. He is a participant of Indiana Prison Writers Workshop. 

My Mind

By Krazy Dave

My mind never stops running. Constant traffic created by racing thoughts in a city with thousands of intersections. Thoughts move with a million different topics, opinions, and insane ideas. I am called “Krazy Dave” for a reason. A fate placed on me since birth. Intersecting thought without stop signs or lights. Traffic light thoughts that are constantly on a collision course within this demented city. What am I to do? If I fight it, it only gets worse. Therefore, I chose to adapt and to live in a city of madness within my mind.

Krazy Dave is an inmate currently living at Plainfield Correctional Facility. He is a participant of Indiana Prison Writers Workshop. Once released, he plans to spend time with his children and help people who are struggling with mental health.

The Show

By Brandon

I watched it all like a Broadway show from the sidelines of my front row seat, wanting to be heard but unable to speak. The courtroom became a stage – I felt scared and alone. So, this is justice? My trial was filled with more theatrics than the actual shootout I endured. This can’t be real. As I think back, I realize how much I’ve changed. I look out the window and I see life floating by, and I ask myself, “Where will I go from here?”

I see the crime scene. It fills me with disappointment even though it was years ago. I was shot, man-hunted, caught, attacked by a K-9 before I was made to walk the humiliating mile to the ambulance -knowing my life would be forever changed while suffering from injuries that still sting deep into my heart. I recall the verdict coming in as I awaited my fate by people appointed to give their opinion on matters of my case. I sat through testimonies of eye-witnesses for and against me, telling the judge and jury their recollection of an incident we all experienced from different lenses.

So this is my life. Charged. Convicted of attempted murder. With no wife, I can only embrace my worst fears of being locked up. I am alone, reduced to tears. No applaud – just the dimming of lights on the final curtain call.

Brandon A. is an inmate currently living at Plainfield Correctional Facility. He is a participant of Indiana Prison Writers Workshop. Once released, he plans on pursuing a career in culinary arts by operating a food truck while continuing writing.

Rise Through My Fall

By Brandon A.

“Thank you” is a phrase that is often underrated. We say it to let people know they are appreciated. But what do you say when gratitude is not enough? When words can’t express what you feel, or who you’re touched. If I could rewind back through my lifetime, I would cherish you more than my own lifeline. The things you taught me I could never forget. The mistakes I made I will always regret. Family is a word we don’t take lightly. It lights fire to our soul that strikes like lightening. Because family means more than being related. It’s about the pain, joy, suffering. My big sister, to me, is more like a Mom, or a friend I depend on; my supreme icon. After 17 years of confinement, she is the only one who knows where all the time went. A voice of reason through a sea of treason. When all other supporters were leaving, she never missed a season. So now at this intersection of my life where I’m nearing my sentence, I dedicate my future to being more present because I believe I will rise through my fall.

Brandon A. is an inmate currently living at Plainfield Correctional Facility. He is a participant of Indiana Prison Writers Workshop. Once released, he plans on pursuing a career in culinary arts by operating a food truck while continuing writing.

Dimensions

By Albert H.

I sat up on many gloomy nights staring at the cell walls. And the small ray of hope ebbed itself through me in a small cell where you are able to only see the embers of dust present themselves as snowflakes dancing in the shadows with their angry, dirty faces. For many decades, I’ve adjusted to incarceration: the faint smell of the zoo and predators move themselves back and forth hoping that some soul would reach in, not to harm, but to feel the warmth of a kind heart. Existence for me became a 4×10 foot cell, in many cases, and as I reached out my arms the cell becomes smaller in size. Dimensions are an illusion. What they don’t compute is the toilet, bunks and sink. In some prisons, I can put a hand and shoulder against one wall and it’s not a far reach. Your existence is a cement dungeon, dry, stripped of all feelings. In these circumstances two men will get to know one another well and some will form a tight bond while others will want to kill each other before the first week is over. Cell size will depend on the relationship. I’ve seen so much violence and grief. For there is a camouflage of bloodshed and a reflection of a man’s eyes through the mirror, and I’m hoping to get a glimpse of some other soul, but really, we only see the screams and a sense of not being heard. I remember the fights behind the walls at another prison in California, and the smell of copper and the blood engraved blanket we wrapped with a man’s flesh and a body being carried out. We chose the life because we were born into this life.

Albert H. is an inmate currently living at Plainfield Correctional Facility. He is a participant of Indiana Prison Writers Workshop. Once released, he plans on continuing to write and spend time with family.

On why I work with inmates and chose to submit their writings to the Spirit & Place Festival blog’s 2018 theme: “Intersection”

by Debra Des Vignes

They notice birds that sing prison songs in plantation fields to condemned men with hopeless dreams. In 2017, I founded Indiana Prison Writers Workshop, a creative writing program for those living in Indiana correctional facilities, where I lead a group of inmates through different writing prompts. The questions they ask: “How have our lives come to this and what will we find waiting for us on the other side?”

As I meet these men in their brown jumpsuits each Sunday, their lives intersecting with mine, I am struck by their poise, candor, and eagerness to express their vulnerabilities. It’s true, the sliver of light that appears through a window in an airless room, gives one an odd perspective of the world, and I no longer observe them through my narrowing eyes. We write about crime, the lives that stretch ahead of them, and the intersections we all face each day. At times, the walls around us feel heavy, but we persevere – unearthing deep emotional issues that were once too painful to let out. At times we jump back into our shells and silence settles among us like the weight of the sweltering sun on a muggy day, until we feel light again.

There’s a reason why so many inmates use storytelling as a coping mechanism, a tool to get through the day, the weeks, the months, the years. Being in prison strips one of their “self” where each day, from morning until bedtime, there is a fight to maintain one’s sanity. At times, Chris’ eyes go wide. “Oh, man, is this class for me?” He describes the writing program in this way: “We were immediately given permission to see ourselves as majestic creatures who are allowed to come and go as we please, fly free, and feel the wind beneath our wings. As caged birds we sing our little hearts out!” he proclaims in awe of the freedom he was given. “Now I’m writing a novel.”

These men are not numbers assigned by the Department of Corrections, but true artists. Writing builds confidence. It gives them hope at a time when hope is the one thing keeping them alive. It’s the perfect soundtrack to a new life, where fast-paced tempos once matched a hectic pace of a life, gives way to a calming melody of self-reflection. And where birds, once invisible in some trees, are now squawking. We’re all at an impasse.

In 1950, there were 265,000 prisoners in the U.S. Today, more than 2.3 million inmates sit behind bars in federal, state, and county prisons and jails around the country.