Want To Make The Gods Laugh?

Make a plan, the gods say.

I dare you.

Photo by Fuschia Foot, on Flickr

Ok, ready? You’re me:

You put on your denim kilt, blue button up shirt, and patchwork hat. Your beard is tidy and trim, and your socks pulled up. You load up the car with your husband, a tupperware container of crayons, and a bag of chocolates.


After a half hour, you’re at a little Unitarian Universalist church near the foothills.

You unload, begin to arrange chairs in a big, circular meeting room, and you wait. When you can’t wait any longer, you step outside. If you’re going to be nervous, you might as well do so in private.

While outside, you write down your plan (that one I dared you to make) another couple times to make sure you remember it. Your plan isn’t a script; it’s an outline. The plan involves no more than 5 steps, and now you’re beginning to wonder if you can make 5 steps stretch into an hour and a half.

That damn cricket won’t stop chirping.

Your husband comes out, gives you a pep-talk, and you realize you’ve got to go to the bathroom. Of course you do.

You make a dash for the john, then check your watch.

It’s time.

The workshop begins when you step in front of the group. It isn’t ceremonious. You’ve chosen not to be introduced. The first thing you do is invite the group of grownups to make abstract representations of themselves using crayons and glitter paint.

Right way they’re giggling, and drawing, and a couple look very serious about their coloring.

You’re coloring, too. You’re a big tree.

Stragglers come in. (Not according to plan.) You catch them up to speed and check your watch.

You tell everyone to write a word — one word — on their page which represents themselves.

Brows furrow, and people write.

More stragglers enter.

You collect the papers, and start to wonder if everyone thinks you’re crazy.

Once collected, you redistribute the artwork in a different order so that everyone has someone else’s drawing.

Then, introductions. You ask everyone to introduce themselves by describing the picture in front of them. You show them,

“I am a swirly, complicated movement of energy, that is both soft on the edges and pointy in some spots.”

You then tell everyone how creativity is a part of your life, and you invite everyone to do the same.

It’s about that time you realize how much you’re sweating.

It’s also around this time that you realize that people are saying some really interesting things. They’re bringing to the space ideas and concerns that you didn’t anticipate. They’re lighting up the room in ways that had nothing to do with your plan.

It gets back to you, and you freeze for a second.

Plan…plan…what was that damn plan…

You stumble through a story about a Druid festival, and then you invite people to sing.

Then something changes.

You think to yourself,

Singing. Music. That’s right. That’s what I do. That’s what this is about.

Then, you chuck the plan. You start to talk from your heart. When you do, you remember that the whole point of the night was to connect people to that creative fire — that fire in their heart. This seems possible now, because you’ve connected with yours.

Time has flown. People have shared their limitations, their creative outlets, and their doubts. They’ve laughed, and they’ve even given a collective “Hmm” once or twice.

With your heart open, and the fire lit, you lead people to the creation of a song.

The one man with a drum begins to play. You start to sing, and people join you. It’s call and response.

“We are…”

“We are…”

“We are…”

“We are…”





You work your way through all of the words, changing the melody up with each one. People are singing. The drum is playing. You’ve created a song out of people’s words, and they’re singing it back to you.

You realize that this has all been a kind of ritual, one which began with child-like chaos and ended with a group song. You created something from nothing, and got everyone to sing.

It worked.

Today I’ll submit the workshop to Pantheacon. I’ll call it: The Songcrafting Workshop: Creating Ritual Song.

It will likely be quite different at the conference. There will be different activities, different people, and of course…

…a new plan.


24 responses to “Want To Make The Gods Laugh?”

  1. Soli Avatar

    So you’ll be at Pcon then? I shall have to track you down. Usually my weekend is spent bouncing around visiting the hundred-some people I never get to see otherwise with living 3,000 miles away.

  2. M.A. Avatar

    i’d go to that — hope to see you at P-Con!

  3. Chef Ette Avatar
    Chef Ette

    OH Teo what a great idea!! In your travels someday I hope you can make it to Newport News Virginia. Have you ever thought of teaching at a University? I think this would be a wonderful part of a music and/or religion course. Just a thought if you ever decide to change careers 😉

  4. Emily Townsend Avatar
    Emily Townsend

    I, for one, loved it, and left super inspired and awake much more to Creativity and The Muse. and your singing was something else, Spirit sure is in that voice. Thanks, Teo!

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for being there, Emily, and for these kind words. I really appreciated your contributions, and I’m glad you enjoyed the workshop!

  5. Lori Avatar

    It was fantastic! Thanks for following-up with this killer glimpse into our collective two hours, Teo.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you, Lori. As I said that night, your participation really made a difference in the workshop. Thank you for your insights!

  6. William Ashton, II Avatar
    William Ashton, II

    I left this workshop with much to process. It was beautifully arranged. Thank you, Teo!

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for coming, William. I appreciate the support, and I’m glad that you walked away with much to think about.

      May your work be blessed with a sprinkle of creative chaos!

  7. Michelle Bryant Avatar
    Michelle Bryant

    Awesome. Also, great kilt.

  8. Doug Upchurch Avatar

    How fabulous!!! Wish I had been there!!

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      I would have loved to hear your contributions, Doug. Hopefully it will happen again in your neck of the woods!

  9. Kat Emralde Avatar

    This is awesome 🙂

  10. Áine Avatar

    So, what would it take to get you out to beautiful Michigan for ConVocation some year? 🙂

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      I’ve never been, Áine – I’d love to go. I’m looking at the website now.

  11. Pink Pitcher Avatar
    Pink Pitcher

    Sounds like it was an amazing workshop! I’m sad I missed it, I hope you recorded some of the drawings people did?

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Next time, Pink. I have a feeling you would have a lot to offer to the conversation, as creative as you are. I do have the drawings. There are some awesome ones!

  12. Rob Henderson Avatar

    You made a plan for a Pagan workshop and didn’t anticipate stragglers?

    I think that part made *everyone* laugh.

  13. dashifen Avatar

    Hrm …. I might have to get my butt out to Pantheacon this year. Sounds like a good time was had by all!

      1. dashifen Avatar

        It always comes down to money. And time, which is money, and so therefore: money. That and 10 pets to care for and a partner who frequently works 14+ hour shifts. There are hurdles, surmountable perhaps, but hurdles nonetheless. I’ll see what I can do 🙂