On Saturday night I attended a presentation by two young men, Duncan and Jonnie Penn who are two members of the team called The Buried Life. These are four young guys who for the last few years have been traveling in a purple bus called Penelope to complete their “bucket list” of 100 things. They are the latest MTV Reality Show Sensation after being plucked from YouTube a couple of years ago. There is no doubt that these guys are definitely entertaining with their “never say never” motivation to fulfill dreams that may seem impossible.
I would have walked away from the presentation on Saturday amused and entertained by their refreshing tenacity if it ended as all traditional presentations end – with a famous quote, joke or montage of footage from their recent exploits.
Instead the Penn brothers invited any member of the 300 member+ audience to approach a microphone and declare their dream that they wished to fulfill before they die.
When this invitation to declare a personal dream was announced there was a rush of a few young girls to the microphone who predictably declared their dream to kiss one of the brothers on stage. But after the initial hugs and kisses were over, there was an uncomfortable transition in the evening.
Several young men and women tentatively described their struggle with mental illness, lost loved ones, abandonment and their simple dream to be healthy, or to be reconnected with people. As I listened to one vulnerable story after another I became uncomfortable because I was concerned with how the MTV “hot shots” on stage would respond. My worry subsided as I marveled at Jonnie and Duncan’s tender, sensitive and sincere response to every person. They gave each young man and woman time to speak, weep, and find the words to express their heart’s desire. They took time to reaffirm each speaker’s struggle, pain, loss with a profound sense of empathy. Occasionally a clarifying question was posed or an encouraging statement was shared. Their responses were neither glib or patronizing. The MTV superstars on stage seemed to know this wasn’t about them it was about the people who bravely voiced their dream and those of us in the audience who were privileged to hear it.
This experience could have easily been a slick presentation to perpetuate the MTV machine but it became a catalyst event for everyone to consider themselves worthy of dreaming. Duncan and Jonnie showed compassion, wisdom and insight in their public interactions with each of the audience members who spoke. Instead of the the token 5-10 minutes at the end of presentation that is typically allotted for comments, 30minutes was given for people to share their stories and their dreams. This was one third of the entire presentation.
Walking out of the auditorium that night was like riding a tidal wave of conversations, questions, declarations and laughter. People were actually talking- to one another!
And I experienced something I haven’t felt in awhile.
I realized that’s what I want in a presentation.
I’m done with sitting through and creating presentations with no or little time to connect with the collective inspiration of those around us.
I’m done with technology tools that reinforce solo performances.
I want to create and attend presentations that promote the insights of others. I want to inspire people to really talk to one another again– even while in the same room.
Kudos to the men of The Buried Life for not selling out as just entertainers and for chipping out space in this crusty world to share the struggle and to dream.