Money is a medium of exchange but the map is not the territory.
Let me explain.
The other night we had a Bettakultcha event in the Basement of City Screen in York. It was to be our seventh event in York and Richard and myself were worried about the turnout: a week before the event we had just enough presenters to put on a show if Richard and me were in the line-up too. And no-one had bought any tickets yet.
A few days before the event we had a couple of presenters cancel due to unavoidable circumstances. This meant the show would be too short for our liking and so, as a long shot, we called for last minute presenters on whatever social media we could access. We also contacted various stalwart presenters of Bettakultcha and asked them if they could help us out. Thankfully they answered the call and said yes.
When we picked up the pieces a couple of days before the event, to our astonishment, we had managed to source five new presenters to the two we had lost. Richard and myself could step down from the list.
We had a show but would we get an audience?
On the night, we discovered just over twenty people had bought tickets and we worried the room might feel a bit empty. It was also our lowest audience numbers in York since we started putting on an event there.
Our twelve presenters turned up and most had brought their ‘plus one’ guest along too so we had around fifty people in the room. It turned out to be a decent sized crowd after all.
Then something extraordinary happened during the evening. We had a couple of brilliantly thought-provoking presentations. After their presentations, I made several observations about the issues they had raised in their talk. I normally then introduce the next presenter and the show goes on as normal but because the room was so intimate (we didn’t use a PA) the presenters responded to my comments as if in a conversation. This prompted others in the audience to politely contribute their observations and we had a discussion going. I let it go on for as long as I thought time allowed (we still had other presenters waiting to go on) but it was a pivotal and profound moment.
At the end of the evening the room buzzed from the excited discussions people were having of their own. Several people mentioned to me that it would be great if there were enough time at the end of an event to continue the discussions uninterrupted.
Then it dawned on me why I had that feeling of profundity during the impromptu discussion.
Earlier in the evening, before anyone else had arrived, Richard and I were discussing the disappointing ticket sales and whether it was worth going on with the York event.
It took me a good twenty-four hours later to realise that we were looking at the event in the wrong way: we were disappointed by the limited ticket sales like we were some kind of business and our livelihoods depended on it. We had become like those pilloried bean counters assessing the cost of something but being totally ignorant of the value of it.
You see our livelihoods didn’t depend on the number of tickets we sold as we had other income streams, thank you very much.
So why were we organising the events?
Because the medium of exchange we were really interested in at the events was of the human kind, not the monetary kind. What we experienced that evening was a feeling of being so fabulously wealthy in terms of community, that we didn’t have to want for anything else.
We all felt the love in the room.
I make no apology for using that particular word because that was the unmistakeable vibration singing in our bodies as we shared our stories. Our living humanity was revealed that night and we celebrated in the glory of it.
It made me realise that society has not forgotten the traditions of tribal life, of meeting strangers, sharing stories with them and exchanging some trinkets in recognition of our miraculous presence here on earth. It’s as if we intuitively understand that one-day, the favour of human kindness will be repaid to us when we need it the most. We depend on each other to survive this world and we are connected to each other in ways that travel far deeper than most people ever suspect.
It doesn’t get any better than this.
We plan the next York event.