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After-hammer; Thoughts and Feelings
hope it went well
The text below I sent to my lawyers in response to their “I hope everything went well” on my return from the outdoor performance that I call now the hammer message (that I went to deliver in person to the city of Prague’s police drugs department. Click here to read the message text)
“Everything went perfectly, I couldn’t have imagined it any better. I arrived barefoot with my poster hanging from a hammer, and I stood in front of the drugs department for almost 3 hours.
I hadn’t managed to prepare the Czech translation properly and had only used the text in English. So I expected very few people to understand my message. Maybe tourists, and they were really funny, some tried to give me money and realized that wasn’t the point.
However, I’m proud and impressed by the way people reacted to my message. I’m proud and impressed by the way the police treated me. I didn’t feel threatened, but many of them approached me. They also took photos from the windows. They smiled. One of them called what I had done a performance art and asked me if it was right to call it that. One of them said “Good luck”. Nobody spat in my face. Nobody told me to leave.
So I intend to come back with a version of my message in Czech and a slightly different structure of it.”
How did I feel after?
Calm. As if I’d done exactly what I had to do. I think that’s what you call being fulfilled. I wrote most of this the next day, but I decided to give it more time to see if I still feel that way later.
Yes, I still do.
I also feel grateful to myself for allowing this experience to happen. I think I’m still decoding what I learned that day. And for sure I’m still processing the feedback.
Here’s a first glimpse of what I have to share.
In the morning, the traffic wasn’t calm and I sensed a lot of anxiety in the driver. I told him I wasn’t in a hurry and when we arrived he was calmer than before. I suppose I took some of his anxiety with me.
I arrived at 9:08 AM. I was full of anxiety, but it wasn’t mine.
(I left home wearing flip-flops, but in a taxi, I immediately took them off and put them in my bag. Touching the ground with my naked soles was somehow calming me down.)
The first hour was the slowest, the easiest on my mind, and perhaps the hardest on my body. I chose the spot, took my hammer out of the bag, put the poster on it, and started to meditate on my breath to slow it down. I looked at the buildings, the trees, the windows, the cars, and the people.
I recognized smells and heard sounds, but above all, I concentrated my mind on a single task.
To stay as far away from judgment as possible. Just to observe and be there. I only wanted to bring the message. I was the message.
The first people to interact with me were tourists. They tried to give me money. A coin.
I wasn’t prepared for that at all. I didn’t accept the coin. They insisted a bit. Not verbally. They spoke German in front of me, assuming I couldn’t understand them. While I was thinking about what I could say to them in German, they left.
My body tensed up after that. The longer I stood there, the more uncertain I felt. I wasn’t cold, even though I was dressed very lightly, but I was frozen. I could feel different levels of anxiety from outside, absolutely everyone around me was more or less anxious, whereas in my mind alone I felt peacefully numb.
I saw a lawyer arriving late to an anxious client, people waiting for an appointment without knowing what was going to happen to them, people arriving and parking anxiously, forgetting things in their car, typing something on their phones.
All kinds of anxiety were somehow presented to me there
How do I know that? Anxiety has a particular smell for me. It’s slightly bitter. I wish I could explain more.
At the time, I found it interesting to observe the extent to which anxiety allowed others to notice me. For example. The most anxious didn’t see me at all.
The construction workers smiled at me a lot. They were the calmest people I’d encountered there. And I started to smile back. And almost immediately I felt my body become lighter and stronger. That was the key.
I started smiling at windows, at people in cars, and even at grumpy faces.
When the first two people who obviously worked in one of the buildings came up to me and nodded, I smiled at them, probably like an idiot. They were standing in front of me and really reading my text, line by line, both of them.
I was ecstatic to have the chance to observe them so closely, but I also felt that my main aim at the time was to make them feel as comfortable as possible when reading my text. I tried to give them space and not stare at them all the time. It wasn’t easy. I was curious to see their reactions.
The second half of the hour
The later it got, the more people there were in the street and the more overwhelmed I felt.
My original idea was to change places every 30 minutes or so. But when I got to the second place, some lady came and told me I wasn’t supposed to be there.
So I moved 30 meters and realized I was in front of the drugs department. The universe had spoken. I changed my plan and stayed there for the rest of the time.
After 10 o’clock, the street really came alive. More clients and lawyers. More cars. More tourists. More anxiety.
I smiled at the windows and noticed that I was being photographed.
A lady from a nearby Kostel came up to me and said that we should find God together in church. I replied that I had already found God who had told me to be exactly where I was. To do what I was doing. I didn’t even feel weird saying that. I meant it. I still mean it.
The lady didn’t like my answer. She looked at me disappointed and walked away mumbling something unclear.
After 11 o’clock, I had to move back, closer to the wall of the building, so as not to disturb passers-by. Once or twice I had to ask people who stopped to read my message not to block the whole street. I knew I’d need a break soon. But the situation was getting more and more interesting.
I found it particularly fascinating to observe again and again how some people seemed to be eager to tell me what they were thinking, but when someone else approached, they stopped talking and walked away. As if they could only speak with me when no one else was close.
I left just before midday. At first, I thought I’d take a break and come back. But my body sent me a few clear signals that the show had to be over with that. And my mind agreed that we should come back with the message in Czech.
I think that was the most important thing I realized that day. It’s definitely the language I want to learn and speak.
Why did I do this?
I think that was the question that was asked the most that day. Not only from the people in uniform but also from strangers. Some asked me if it was personal. Had they done something for me? Or a friend of mine? One Canadian dude really tested my patience by asking me to tell him whether I was for or against the police.
I continued to say that I was there to serve art and love. And to point out that we don’t prosecute for tools like hammers, but we do for other tools like drugs.
I felt like someone had to do what I did
We don’t have to be stupid squirrels. We have god-like technologies and tools already and acting rather medieval when it comes to regulating them. This can change. We just have to stop acting as if we know what’s right and wrong. We don’t. Not yet.
It was not an act of protest. Neither did I try to support anyone.
To be completely honest – I had no clue why I was doing it until it was done. Until I was there.
Now I know
Or let’s say I know more than before. I needed this experience to understand my own strengths and weak spots even better. It was quite a therapy for me. Especially the feedback I received after.
Now I know I’m not alone for sure. I always thought so. But now I really know.
I’ll share more on this topic soon. Thank you for reading this. If you like what I’m doing consider supporting my work.
Photos by Paw Patrol. Proof-reading – Gene Bogolepov.