In May of 1997, I attended an evening of women's performance art entitled Manifesting the Girl Hero organized by my best friend and wise woman Gretchen Burger. One performance in particular grabbed my brain and my heart, shook my body with laughter and chills, and has left an indelible mark on me ever since. That performance was by Pamela Sackett, reading pieces of her latest work entitled Saving the World Solo.
I distinctly remember seeing this colorful woman take the stage, fabric swirling around her small frame, yet possessing maturity and wisdom that showed in her carriage, her silvery dark long hair, and her sweet bookish glasses. And then she began to speak: her distinctly non-west-coast rapidity moved at so many levels that I could only sit gape-jawed and listen to the magic pouring forth.
As a lover of language, I was awed by her ability to manipulate and revel in words—to play with their multilayered meanings and their rhythm, to make them completely her own tools to express precise perceptions and nuanced tones of feeling. But beyond the word-dance, it was the content of the pieces that held me transfixed: Pamela Sackett was expressing the meta-mental and emotional process of the Strong Idealist who is burdened with a legacy of personal self-doubt and fear, living in a world that is structured at so many levels to foster and maintain that self-doubt and fear.
As she expressed her dreams of a world filled with authentic, loving, free individuals, she simultaneously shared the enormous energy spent addressing her anxiety and scrutinizing all the potential ramifications of all the possible actions that might be taken in moving towards that ideal. Her monologues displayed in graphic high-relief the tension between being able to envision a world without inhibition and limitation, while living in a world full of obstacles that keep us from experiencing true freedom.
Pamela's Saving the World Solo reading was at once desperately tragic and profoundly hopeful. She demonstrated great vulnerability and sincere bravery as she wove pieces of her life story around her conviction to reach for personal and planetary emotional health, in the midst of navigating her own deep wounds, and ours. I wondered how many other people in the audience felt like she was telling their stories out loud, articulating their own idealism and self-limitation.
I know I did. Having dedicated my life to "accountability," at all levels, working as a professional activist and as a personal activist, examining and rooting out my own patterns of limitation that interfere with my ability to be my strongest, most liberated self, Pamela's words were like a mirror reflecting my own greatest hopes and darkest secrets.
It became immediately clear to me that Pamela's richly textured work was just that—her Work, her Calling, her Reason For Being On This Earth. To use language to bear witness to where we are locked up as a society and as individuals, and to do so by using herself as the primary specimen under the microscope. In doing so, she gives us several gifts.
First, the gift of naming and shaping our greatest potential: the freedom to be emotionally authentic.
Second, the gift of exposing the greatest obstacle to that freedom: our fear of vulnerability in being emotionally authentic, and the lengths we will go, because of that fear, to avoid our own authenticity and freedom.
Finally, she shows us a path to our greatest potential: to examine the fear and learn the forms it takes; to then listen to the still voice inside that is already authentic and free; and to amplify that voice by sharing it.
Saving the World Solo is just one of the ways Pamela Sackett has been paving the path for herself, and accordingly for all of us, to realize our potential. Pamela is the founder of Emotion Literacy Advocates™ (ELA), a nonprofit community service that creates learning forums for insight into emotion through language and the arts. ELA is a vehicle for children and adults to learn to understand emotion, a critical skill needed to effectively and honestly communicate with one's self and others.
Through thought-provoking art, including books, graphics, theatrical scripts, public events and recorded media, ELA offers catalysts for thinking in new ways—communication tools that can benefit whole communities by guiding individuals toward the kind of freedom required to be honest with and accountable to themselves and others.
I am so thankful that Pamela decided to let ELA publish her 1997 creation, Saving the World Solo. Through language and personal example, her voice helps us access those hidden places of fear and hope, and in doing so, shows us a glimmer of how with a little bit of courage, a lot of patience, and moving forward with deliberation and emotional honesty, we can indeed save our world. —Dana Gold
Dana Gold is the Director of the Center on Corporations, Law & Society at Seattle University School of Law. Prior to joining Seattle University, Dana worked as Director of Operations and Staff Attorney for the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a national nonprofit organization that provides legal and advocacy assistance to whistleblowers—employees who report wrongdoing in the workplace. She is a longtime advocate for personal and institutional accountability.