Passion, peace, & the dance in between.

Transforming negative emotions into positive actions: a reflection

May Garces has been Melton Fellow since 2005. She presented this text as a speech at this year’s Global Citizenship Conference in Temuco, Chile, which marked the foundation’s 25th anniversary. The original speech can be found in May’s blog.

I have been awarded more than 10 scholarships in recent years to implement ideas that align with the values of the Melton Foundation: mutual respect, global citizenship and intellectual curiosity and their focus areas of sustainability, equality and diversity.

My projects and the projects that I have participated in are mostly related to education, the arts, community development and decision making. These scholarships have also allowed me to explore some personal hypothesis that I have about life and to channel my thoughts and feelings productively. For that, I am deeply grateful.

The Melton Foundation has truly been a psychedelic experience for me. By psychedelic I mean “mind revealing” (for its etymological root). I have been able to make visible the thoughts inside my head. I have turned inside out and I can understand more clearly.

From a scholarship that took me to Greece to explore History with friends from India, China and Chile; to learning new approaches in music theory and the physics of sound in India; to confronting stereotypes in Chile; to working with different communities of artists from around the world to have confidence in the power of seduction of art in us humans, I have been able to explore and live my questions.

How cool is that?

But it makes me wonder, why have I felt the need to do all this?

Well, maybe you’ve noticed that I am an intense person. I was a passionate girl and I have never wanted that to change. But this passion has not always been positive. Passion can be constructive or destructive.

This is what I want to talk about today. The energy that drives our projects.

Is the quality of our intentions important when making projects? Does it affect their impact? These are interesting questions that I do not have the complete answer to yet.

I can say that not all of my projects were motivated by joy and curiosity. Some projects I did, I did just to save myself.

Once, I was so deeply sad that I realized that doing a project with other people was what I needed to save my year. I really, really wanted to stop living. I was not angry or upset. I just felt nothing. I just felt something pulling me down; slowing me down to a state of peace. And I longed for that peace and thought it was time to have it. I thought it was time to rest in peace. Since my childhood I have been aware of this reality: that one day, we will all return to peace.

And in this moment of sadness, I just longed for that peace to come faster. We panic, because things do not go as expected, but sometimes we just have to wait a little longer to understand what it all mean, and to discover wonderful things. So in the meantime, we have to lengthen the time. Make time happen faster.

In a lucid moment, I felt the need to save myself and saw that people around me were motivated to make a project and include me in it, so I grabbed this opportunity tightly. I can now look back and say, “well, at least I did something useful with my time!”

At least I will remember these projects as benchmarks of things I love and respect, instead of remembering these other things, these other problems, that do not define me. That I did not want to be defined by.

We can transform negative emotions into positive actions. The truth is that what you create, creates you back.

The ideas that you put into practice inform you of who you are, your strengths and your weaknesses.

If you want to have memorable and meaningful learnings, you have to include yourself and commit your feelings to what you’re doing. And it will hurt. But as Albert Camus would say: “Life should be lived to the point of tears.”

Isn’t it amazing that we can do this as Melton Fellows? We agree on common values and we can be intentional in making them real. And we have to make them real, because they are so difficult to live by every single day.

Recently, I was in Colombia, where I learnt about the dismantling of the “hell on earth” that was the “El Bronx” neighborhood in Bogota, where they used to kill people, cut them up in pieces and made their bodies disappear by melting them in acid — and it only makes me think that these could have been my hands! That there are some of us humans who get their pleasure from oppressing others, from the destruction of others.

Those could have been my hands, but they are not, and I’m happy for that. I am responsible for that. We are responsible for the fact that we can get pleasure from things that help others and not things that destroy others.

We are now able to use our brains to decide, we are able to use this prefrontal cortex that allows us to make complex decisions to design activities and people and environments that make us the person we think we are or the person we want to become.

We have this space, and these similar-minded organizations to channel our good and bad passions, and it is a privilege that we need to continue sharing.

Looking from a distance in this journey, I see certain patterns emerging, some choreography in team dynamics, some dancing in my motivation, a fluctuating impact of the things I’ve done and their improvement has something to do with listening. With the notice. With perception.

What’s going on inside me and outside of me? Who is moving? Who is doing projects? Should I copy their footsteps? Should I make my own dance? Listen out. Notice.

With my projects, I have wanted to explore the truth of my own passion and decide with which movements I want to be associated with. I have found these collaborations in the most unlikely places.

For example, I now work with: a group of physical educators working on embodied cognition and empathy; a group of mathematicians who study the metaphors that emerge in artistic forms in the classroom; a group of social workers who apply creative processes as a way to heal traumatic experiences, and with many groups of artists who express the thoughts of their communities in powerful ways.

I have been able to contact them because of the projects I’ve done in the Melton Foundation. I have worked with them because my projects speak of my interests and relate to their problems.

I can now look back and things make a little sense, and so I invite you to notice, to listen, to reflect:

Where is your curiosity leading you? Where is your passion leading you? Where is your pain leading you?

All these emotions are energy, motivation. We don’t need to be afraid of them, they can also take you to do good things.

And you should do good things. Because they can save you sometimes when you long for peace to come sooner. You will be able to find this peace in the honesty of your own story.

As leaders and communities of concerned people, we need to work intentionally with these dynamics in mind so that our efforts will result in a truly promising future.

“Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

We’re on this dance floor together. Let’s listen to the music, let’s communicate well between us and let’s choreograph a great show.

I can’t wait.