Project Apology started off as a satire, as a mirror on human disconnectedness, as an art project.
It seems it was always going to become an interactive workshop event.
This process has taken place gradually over time as the project has dissolved in and out of focus in the midst of other projects and life responsibilities. The fact that it has worked out this way I think has been beneficial, as it has grown in depth beside the depth of my own life experience amidst challenging events, which has brought tone not only to the delivery of acknowledgement/apology, but also to the underlying ideas and principals that gave birth to the project in the first place.
The first formal workshop was held at The Allan Brooks Nature Center through the Caetani Center, with a small yet diverse audience (in terms of belief systems).
It turned out to be an amazing experience, one that enabled numerous insights to crystallize and offered many leanings about taking the workshop format, and the project, further. The handful of participants were fully engaged and impassioned. After a brief introduction to explain the project and set the context, we kicked off by apologizing to a hive of honey bees, inside the center. There after we went outdoors and delivered a communal apology to the valley and all it’s inhabitants. During this time, a critically endangered Great Basin Spadefoot Toad, appeared literally at our feet, croaking seemingly in solidarity (or protest) This was followed by an open ended period of solo reflection and apology/acknowledgement time.
While most threw themselves into the process, one person was particularly resistant and took up a ‘voice of reason’ positioning, making statements like the ones below:
“This is just to make ourselves feel better…it doesn’t really do anything for the creatures who we apologize to.”
“Aren’t we over the hump in terms of conservation efforts, aren’t things getting better.”
Another participant, a biologist and ecologist, who was previously quite skeptical about the project, threw himself into the act of acknowledgment and apology, and was overwhelmed with emotion, to the point that he actually suggested that I warn people about the possibility of an emotional, transformative response, which in fact I had done and do do [he had just not been present]. Nevertheless, his testimony was certainly very strong qualitative evidence of the transformative power of the process of apologizing in its ability to, particularly in a facilitated scenario, to transcend rationalizing about our effect on the environment and to bring it into actual feeling terms, thus bringing down the veils of the illusion of separateness
Although we are all aware of the damage that is being done at the unconscious level, it is clear that many of find it too uncomfortable to engage in the scientific reality at the level of conscious feeling. Ironically this is exactly what needs to happen if more species are to survive. We can only move forward by realizing and accepting where we are. To do so individually, I believe is part of our responsibility as human beings on this planet right now.
Acknowledging and sitting with the discomfort, accepting the disharmony, is the only way to move through it.