The theory and practice of the Insight approach is a method of analyzing, explaining, and transforming conflict grounded in the phenomenology of consciousness. This is the foundation of our work. By attending to our own inner conscious experience, we learned to identify the powerful inner drama of meaning making within ourselves. We discovered that to be in conflict is to be convinced that the values and choices of the “other” pose a dire threat to our own values and choices – to feel certain that the values and choices of other must be thwarted – and to feel righteous about our decisions and actions to do so. We also learned that these powerful inner dramas are not intractable – that they can be transformed when certainty is leavened by the release of curiosity and empathy for the other.
The Insight method is a practical application of Bernard Lonergan’s Insight theory. It is based on the following simple yet subtle insight. Since we use our minds when we are making our decisions to engage in conflict with others, if we can pay attention to the way we are using our minds when we do so, we can open up the possibility of changing our minds and of transforming our conflicts.
Insight theatre is based on the insight that live theatrical performance is the most effective, accessible, and entertaining way to pay attention to the way we use our minds when lock ourselves into conflict with others, and to foster the possibility of its transformation.
Releasing the artistry of curiosity though Insight art
TÉA is a collective of Insight artist, by which we mean we are artists with a particular approach to social engagement. As artists, we are drawn to theatre and the performing arts. As socially engaged artists, we are informed and guided by the Insight approach to peacebuilding and conflict transformation. As Insight artists, we are particularly interested in the creative and transformative interaction of audience members and artistic performance. In pursuing this interest, we are driven by two related questions. First, how can live, theatrical performance pieces help to transform the political and social habits of mind that precipitate conflict behavior in America? And second, how can the experience of a theatrical performance piece foster within us the reflexive self-presence we need to be more mindful and discerning in responding to people and situations that threaten us? For the past ten years, we have sought answers to these questions by collaboratively creating, producing, and performing original works of Insight art.
Pathway of Insight Artistry - an Insight workshops series
The aim of these workshops is to advance artists mastery in four Insight skill domains: reflexive self-awareness, Insight conversations, the aesthetics of Insight art, and artistic creation. In what follows, we address all four goals.
In the first Insight skill domain, the goal is to deepen the artists’ reflexive self-awareness. A set of Insight artistry exercises enables them to differentiate their experience of the data of sense and consciousness and to master the basic terms and relations of the Insight approach. This mastery included (1) the ability to identify in their inner experience the sequence of basic questions and operations that constitute the patterned flow of consciousness; (2) the ability to recognize the functional relationship of roles, objects, and horizons of consciousness; (3) the ability to critically correlate carriers and operations of consciousness; and (4) the functional relationship of valuing, deciding, and conflict behavior.
In the second Insight skill domain, the goal is to hone the artists’ capacity for community-based research through mastery of the Insight conversation. The goal of the Insight conversation is to discover the way another person is using their mind to think and act in relations to a particular issue. The basic skill set involved in conducting an Insight conversation goes well beyond that required for conducting ordinary interviews. Whereas ordinary interviews seek to understand what a person thinks, the goal of the Insight conversation is to discover how that person thinks – how they are using their mind to think what they think. The special challenge of the Insight conversation is that the person being engaged is typically not particularly aware of how they are using their minds. They can become aware, certainly, but that is the task of the Insight conversationalist. It falls to the Insight artist to understand the recurring pattern that marks the flow of our conscious operations, but also to put this knowledge to work first, by recognizing the operation of consciousness manifested in the words of the other person, and second, by asking the Insight question required to foster reflexive awareness in that person.
In the third Insight skill domain, the goal is for the artists to appropriate and articulate the aesthetics of Insight art. To this end, we carry out an engaged, ongoing conversation on the topic of Insight art over the course of the workshop series. For purposes of discussion and analysis, we present interdisciplinary examples of Insight artistry that ranged from television series to theatrical performance pieces to music. Each of the artists brings their own examples to the conversation.
Over the course of a workshop, artists can articulate an important distinction between Insight artistry and Insight art. Insight artistry refers to the creative performance of the artist, and specifically the artistic intention to account for the data of consciousness in the creation and development of artistic works. Insight art is a particular species of Insight artistry, one that develops an artistic product with the specific intention of enhancing the reflexive awareness of audience members to how they are thinking about what they are thinking and doing.
In the fourth Insight skill domain, the goal is for each of the artists to begin work on a piece of Insight art directed to the issue to which they felt most called. Artists report that it is important to have a performance goal as part of the series, both to give practical meaning to the Insight exercises and conversations conducted in the workshop, but also to enable them to learn to become Insight artists by attempting to create Insight art.