Updated: Feb 25, 2021
This website has gathered a quorum, and we’re building momentum, but people ask me all the time, “What exactly are we doing here, and why do you feel compelled to start this?”
The first answer is simple: We’re playing.
To answer the second question, I’ll make an analogy with this video:
(If the video doesn't play, click this link - http://bit.ly/BetsySamba)
That’s me in the white hat with green sequins directing a samba percussion group. On that December evening, we performed in our own impromptu parade through downtown Santa Barbara.
At the time, there was a community drumming scene in Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara Solstice Parade every June kept our imaginations fresh and our ambitions strong. This parade, our city’s signature event, was always in mind as drummers self-organized into performance groups that were often affiliated with dance classes. Accomplished drummers from Africa, Cuba, and Brazil visited Santa Barbara to teach an eager audience composed mostly of the descendants of European immigrants. Multicultural integration like this was the norm in California in the twenty-first century; and these Santa Barbarians were devoted students who loved the challenges and joys of learning this unfamiliar skill and sharing it with others.
Before I joined this particular group in the video, it performed an “authentic” samba routine only once a year. It was taught to them in a workshop led by an expert in Brazilian rhythms—a mestre in Portuguese, the language of Brazil. But they wanted to do more, and they wanted to play year-round. That’s where I came in.
I love to learn, and I’m good at it, and it drives me crazy if an obstacle prevents me from doing what I’ve learned. I had been a dancer with this group, but I’d seen that they needed some leadership; so I bought a whistle and a repinique (the calling drum that’s used to lead a samba bateria), and I set to work.
It was 2008, and YouTube had just become populated with drumming videos (and every other kind of video) from all over the world. It was now possible for me, a white woman in California, to learn drumming patterns and techniques from men showing off their chops on the streets, in the studios, and in the living rooms of Rio. It was all sound and rhythm, and it didn’t matter that I didn’t speak Portuguese.
This video of our sidewalk batucada is my favorite souvenir from that time because it demonstrates our success. As you can see, I led our group to perform independently with great joy and skill, and the crowd loved us. On that evening, we were pleasantly surprised to have friends from out of town join us. They also knew samba very well and could jump in. That’s one of the things I love about samba batucada--it’s brilliantly designed for community. It’s designed so that players of different instruments and skill levels can play together; and someone who understands the basics can travel and play with another group.
As the leader directing the parade, I was also the one who organized our practices, managed our equipment, and got our samba train moving. I gave us permission to DO what we had learned, and we had a blast. We had learned how to play, so we were playing.
I tell this story because it’s a wonderful analogy to what’s happening here with the Working With I Am the Word website.
It was eleven years ago that Paul Selig’s first book, I Am the Word, was published. Now there are eight books, with another on the way, and countless YouTube videos and live streams. A large number of people are learning the language and techniques that the Guides present.
Through ten years of conversations in the Facebook group, we’ve had our experiences validated. This has helped us integrate what we learned from the books into our daily lives. We know that it’s normal to experience expanded consciousness as real and to collaborate with multidimensional beings, some with bodies and some without. We’ve learned how to play.
As with any human endeavor, however, we have some politics to wade through in order to fully DO what we learned. Let’s go back to the drumming analogy.
Before I led this samba group, these drummers were stuck in a perpetual state of being students, subordinate to a superior authority. The Brazilians who came to California were happy to share a global appreciation of samba rhythms, but they shared something else as well. The Brazilian samba scene is heavy with competition between rival performance groups (Samba Schools) where systems of ownership, status, gender roles, and authority are firm. As respectful Californians who were grateful for the opportunity to learn, it felt natural to honor our teachers by adopting a subordinate status.
In reality, though, that was baggage we needed to outgrow. The restrictions felt by this group were artifacts from another culture, a gap between teacher and student. In order to break free, we needed to honor our personal abilities as distinct from the pedagogy, or else we would always be second-class-citizens who would never have permission to do what we learned.
From the perspective of cultural inheritance, I could see that the community drumming groups in Santa Barbara were equally entitled to play samba as Brazilians were; our cultures had merely followed divergent pathways until now. The music we played (we called it CaliSamba) was the most modern iteration of a cultural mashup created by centuries of human migrations across continents. Some of the “authentic” Brazilian samba instruments we played revealed a design inherited from European military drums. Other samba instruments showed design inherited from African hand percussion. As European descendants, I suspect that we would have claimed our own ancestral rhythms if they hadn’t been lost more than a century ago when the Holy Roman Empire “unified” the culture with artistic suppression (among other things).
As the drummers in Santa Barbara demonstrated, I knew that we could get past that cultural bottleneck and reclaim our right to play. I could see that some parts of samba were ubiquitous to the human species, and other parts (like the specific language spoken) were specific to localized cultures. I knew that our group could honestly perform samba in truth, joy, and integrity while speaking our native language and knowing ourselves as sovereign individuals, sovereign drummers playing together in sync.
I make this analogy because there is a similar process occurring in the WWIATW group. We have these textbooks that were written by the Guides through Paul Selig, but it’s a misnomer to call them “Paul’s Guides.” Paul was outnumbered as soon as two people had read the books. The Guides have made it clear that they work with everyone who reads the books, and they attend to all those who are drawn to this collective. Those who participate today inform the teachings and the content that is brought forth through Paul’s channeling.
As the embodied participants of The Guides’ Collective, we are reclaiming our inheritance as sovereign individuals. Just as the Santa Barbara samba group was able to play once they realized they didn’t need to ask an authority for permission, we, too, are not stuck being second-rate students forever. The student becomes the master.
Each blog post on this website reflects this exciting process. They are people DOING what they learned from working with I Am the Word. We’ve done the work, we’re showing up for the parade, now let’s play.
In my next blog post, I'll answer the question, Who is Working With I Am the Word?