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Kristofor Giordano

Religion and Psychology

The Mythology of “The When McGruff Was King”

A theme is common to literature and film; a stranger enters a town and

exposes, intentionally or not, a spiritually decrepit social structure that up until this

point had no reason to defend itself. The trauma released by the collision of society

and outsider is closely related to Winnicott’s study of a baby separated from the

mother. In the acquaintance with the life-threatening absence of the mother’s

breast, Winnicott writes, “Trauma implies that the baby has experienced a break in

life’s continuity, so that primitive defenses now become organized to defend against

a repetition of ‘unthinkable anxiety’…” (p. 98). As the baby develops a system of

memory, it learns to “trust” the surrounding environment through a

gradual “building up of confidence based on experience” (p. 102). For the first time,

the baby may begin to form a relationship with a potentially dangerous outside

world through the act of play.

The role of play, which is essentially a relationship between structure

and anti-structure, familiar and unfamiliar, demonstrates a desire to mingle with

danger and ultimately contain it so that it becomes familiar and non-threatening.

The friction between structure and anti-structure is interesting enough that it has

become a theme for so many works of fiction in literature and film, perhaps because

it can be traced to a memory of our initial experience with the outside world. It is of

interest to me how anti-structure is introduced, and ultimately contained through

the act of play.

In a more commonplace manifestation, the carnival represents a model of

anti-structure; transported into town for a short time, it disrupts the regular order

and activity of the community. Within the carnival, I am introduced to strange often

grotesque faces, and rides, some convincingly life-threatening, that acquaint me

with unfamiliar and chaotic experiences. I may choose to look at the mechanics

behind this life-threatening entity, the structure itself, but I would rather allow

myself to be carried away by its lawlessness for the sake of the lie (that in actuality

it is relatively structured) that needs to be told somehow. I ignore the workers

making the fullness of the illusion possible or the “nuts and bolts” holding the rides

together. These inconsistencies are purposely forgotten to break with the continuity

of a structured life where such “obvious details” reinforce familiarity with the

surrounding environment.

Having been part of a traveling group of “clowns” myself, I will submit my

own experiences in playing with a model of anti-structure. The movement to which

I belonged was called “The When McGruff was King,” the name itself grammatically

incorrect, and was primarily a group who shared an interest in improvisational

performance and sound. The number of members fluctuated between one and

the many; it was never consistent. “McGruff” provided an unstable foundation

on which to pile on any and all forms of expression that could be brought to life

through performance. We adopted established modes of expression such as tribe-

like chants, costume, idol worship, and song; nothing was excluded if suggested. The

performances allowed us to transcend boundaries of what society might classify

useful forms of communication; namely getting somewhere, having a point, a goal or

destination. This experience is closely related to that of the carnival ride; to gain the

fullness of the experience you embrace the chaos, you do not concern yourself with

where the ride is going.

The experiences that make us insecure are often those that cannot be

given a clear definition. In the spirit of discomforting ambiguity, “McGruff”

constantly created new and unclear definitions of people, places and objects.

Upon exposure to “McGruff,” we were stripped of titles and assets that would be

useful in designating an individual’s role in a structured society. Our names were

used interchangeably to offset the structured order of titles and create confusion.

Instruments themselves were redeveloped, restructured, and finally destroyed.

Power tools became instruments. Instruments became weapons. Practice became

finished recordings and performances. Finally, the boundary between audience

and performer was destroyed altogether. The audience took over the stage and

performed a “McGruff” show, as the original performers watched from outside.

Similarly, the sites of “McGruff” performances were various and elusive. As

a general rule, we performed wherever there was space and opportunity to do so.

Performances took place with little or no planning on the street, in people’s houses,

school and church auditoriums or public parks. One member claimed he performed

in front of a large audience in a park somewhere in northern New Jersey, but there

was no documentation or witness to support the claim. The fact of whether this

event actually took place or not was irrelevant to “McGruff” anyhow. Regarding this

undocumented performance as equally valid as any other performance illustrated

how “McGruff” became everyone’s property and no one’s. “McGruff” put us in touch

with a profound truth; that all experiences catalyze into a structured, manageable

form through a collection of arbitrary descriptions that are also susceptible to

scrutiny.

The magic of “McGruff” was bound to fall apart. Like the carnival, after

spending enough time inside you gain familiarity with how it is held together, and

notice that the pieces are made collapsible for the sake of easy transportation;

it must be unfixed to remain potent. Hierarchies were inevitably developed.

Individuals were give titles and responsibilities to ensure the survival and success

of future “McGruff” performances. It is difficult to deny an innate human need to

gain a sense of familiarity with the chaos to avoid interference with the stability of

securing a job, a place to live, and maintaining meaningful relationships. In part,

the spirit of “McGruff” was compromised as its structure became familiar to its

members. In another way, “McGruff” lives as a symbol for those who were part of it

or may yet become part of its spirit; as a phase of uncertainty, danger, and unknown

possibility, the creative experience itself.

Once after a performance in a coffee shop we were approached by a

gentleman in his mid-twenties, who enthusiastically declared, “I’m booking

you guys,” shook each of our hands, and walked away without any information

exchanged that would guarantee such a statement. Like this interaction, the

meaning of McGruff still puzzles me. For some reason the cliché phrase “You

complete me” seems applicable here. Trivial as it may sound, if this statement

has any bearing whatsoever it is in the relationship between structure and anti-

structure. As Winnicott writes, “One can think of the electricity that seems to

generate between meaningful or intimate contact,” in relating to, “the potential

space between the individual and the environment” (p. 98). Once trust is

established, the other provides a support for my vulnerability, just as I provide a

support for theirs. Like the act of play, the relationship between structure and anti-

structure must be variable to endure.

twmwk:

Kristofor Giordano

Religion and Psychology

The Mythology of “The When McGruff Was King”

A theme is common to literature and film; a stranger enters a town and

exposes, intentionally or not, a spiritually decrepit social structure that up until this

point had no reason to defend itself. The trauma released by the collision of society

and outsider is closely related to Winnicott’s study of a baby separated from the

mother. In the acquaintance with the life-threatening absence of the mother’s

breast, Winnicott writes, “Trauma implies that the baby has experienced a break in

life’s continuity, so that primitive defenses now become organized to defend against

a repetition of ‘unthinkable anxiety’…” (p. 98). As the baby develops a system of

memory, it learns to “trust” the surrounding environment through a

gradual “building up of confidence based on experience” (p. 102). For the first time,

the baby may begin to form a relationship with a potentially dangerous outside

world through the act of play.

The role of play, which is essentially a relationship between structure

and anti-structure, familiar and unfamiliar, demonstrates a desire to mingle with

danger and ultimately contain it so that it becomes familiar and non-threatening.

The friction between structure and anti-structure is interesting enough that it has

become a theme for so many works of fiction in literature and film, perhaps because

it can be traced to a memory of our initial experience with the outside world. It is of

interest to me how anti-structure is introduced, and ultimately contained through

the act of play.

In a more commonplace manifestation, the carnival represents a model of

anti-structure; transported into town for a short time, it disrupts the regular order

and activity of the community. Within the carnival, I am introduced to strange often

grotesque faces, and rides, some convincingly life-threatening, that acquaint me

with unfamiliar and chaotic experiences. I may choose to look at the mechanics

behind this life-threatening entity, the structure itself, but I would rather allow

myself to be carried away by its lawlessness for the sake of the lie (that in actuality

it is relatively structured) that needs to be told somehow. I ignore the workers

making the fullness of the illusion possible or the “nuts and bolts” holding the rides

together. These inconsistencies are purposely forgotten to break with the continuity

of a structured life where such “obvious details” reinforce familiarity with the

surrounding environment.

Having been part of a traveling group of “clowns” myself, I will submit my

own experiences in playing with a model of anti-structure. The movement to which

I belonged was called “The When McGruff was King,” the name itself grammatically

incorrect, and was primarily a group who shared an interest in improvisational

performance and sound. The number of members fluctuated between one and

the many; it was never consistent. “McGruff” provided an unstable foundation

on which to pile on any and all forms of expression that could be brought to life

through performance. We adopted established modes of expression such as tribe-

like chants, costume, idol worship, and song; nothing was excluded if suggested. The

performances allowed us to transcend boundaries of what society might classify

useful forms of communication; namely getting somewhere, having a point, a goal or

destination. This experience is closely related to that of the carnival ride; to gain the

fullness of the experience you embrace the chaos, you do not concern yourself with

where the ride is going.

The experiences that make us insecure are often those that cannot be

given a clear definition. In the spirit of discomforting ambiguity, “McGruff”

constantly created new and unclear definitions of people, places and objects.

Upon exposure to “McGruff,” we were stripped of titles and assets that would be

useful in designating an individual’s role in a structured society. Our names were

used interchangeably to offset the structured order of titles and create confusion.

Instruments themselves were redeveloped, restructured, and finally destroyed.

Power tools became instruments. Instruments became weapons. Practice became

finished recordings and performances. Finally, the boundary between audience

and performer was destroyed altogether. The audience took over the stage and

performed a “McGruff” show, as the original performers watched from outside.

Similarly, the sites of “McGruff” performances were various and elusive. As

a general rule, we performed wherever there was space and opportunity to do so.

Performances took place with little or no planning on the street, in people’s houses,

school and church auditoriums or public parks. One member claimed he performed

in front of a large audience in a park somewhere in northern New Jersey, but there

was no documentation or witness to support the claim. The fact of whether this

event actually took place or not was irrelevant to “McGruff” anyhow. Regarding this

undocumented performance as equally valid as any other performance illustrated

how “McGruff” became everyone’s property and no one’s. “McGruff” put us in touch

with a profound truth; that all experiences catalyze into a structured, manageable

form through a collection of arbitrary descriptions that are also susceptible to

scrutiny.

The magic of “McGruff” was bound to fall apart. Like the carnival, after

spending enough time inside you gain familiarity with how it is held together, and

notice that the pieces are made collapsible for the sake of easy transportation;

it must be unfixed to remain potent. Hierarchies were inevitably developed.

Individuals were give titles and responsibilities to ensure the survival and success

of future “McGruff” performances. It is difficult to deny an innate human need to

gain a sense of familiarity with the chaos to avoid interference with the stability of

securing a job, a place to live, and maintaining meaningful relationships. In part,

the spirit of “McGruff” was compromised as its structure became familiar to its

members. In another way, “McGruff” lives as a symbol for those who were part of it

or may yet become part of its spirit; as a phase of uncertainty, danger, and unknown

possibility, the creative experience itself.

Once after a performance in a coffee shop we were approached by a

gentleman in his mid-twenties, who enthusiastically declared, “I’m booking

you guys,” shook each of our hands, and walked away without any information

exchanged that would guarantee such a statement. Like this interaction, the

meaning of McGruff still puzzles me. For some reason the cliché phrase “You

complete me” seems applicable here. Trivial as it may sound, if this statement

has any bearing whatsoever it is in the relationship between structure and anti-

structure. As Winnicott writes, “One can think of the electricity that seems to

generate between meaningful or intimate contact,” in relating to, “the potential

space between the individual and the environment” (p. 98). Once trust is

established, the other provides a support for my vulnerability, just as I provide a

support for theirs. Like the act of play, the relationship between structure and anti-

structure must be variable to endure.

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twmwk:

Kristofor Giordano

Religion and Psychology

The Mythology of “The When McGruff Was King”

A theme is common to literature and film; a stranger enters a town and

exposes, intentionally or not, a spiritually decrepit social structure that up until this

point had no reason to defend itself. The trauma released by the collision of society

and outsider is closely related to Winnicott’s study of a baby separated from the

mother. In the acquaintance with the life-threatening absence of the mother’s

breast, Winnicott writes, “Trauma implies that the baby has experienced a break in

life’s continuity, so that primitive defenses now become organized to defend against

a repetition of ‘unthinkable anxiety’…” (p. 98). As the baby develops a system of

memory, it learns to “trust” the surrounding environment through a

gradual “building up of confidence based on experience” (p. 102). For the first time,

the baby may begin to form a relationship with a potentially dangerous outside

world through the act of play.

The role of play, which is essentially a relationship between structure

and anti-structure, familiar and unfamiliar, demonstrates a desire to mingle with

danger and ultimately contain it so that it becomes familiar and non-threatening.

The friction between structure and anti-structure is interesting enough that it has

become a theme for so many works of fiction in literature and film, perhaps because

it can be traced to a memory of our initial experience with the outside world. It is of

interest to me how anti-structure is introduced, and ultimately contained through

the act of play.

In a more commonplace manifestation, the carnival represents a model of

anti-structure; transported into town for a short time, it disrupts the regular order

and activity of the community. Within the carnival, I am introduced to strange often

grotesque faces, and rides, some convincingly life-threatening, that acquaint me

with unfamiliar and chaotic experiences. I may choose to look at the mechanics

behind this life-threatening entity, the structure itself, but I would rather allow

myself to be carried away by its lawlessness for the sake of the lie (that in actuality

it is relatively structured) that needs to be told somehow. I ignore the workers

making the fullness of the illusion possible or the “nuts and bolts” holding the rides

together. These inconsistencies are purposely forgotten to break with the continuity

of a structured life where such “obvious details” reinforce familiarity with the

surrounding environment.

Having been part of a traveling group of “clowns” myself, I will submit my

own experiences in playing with a model of anti-structure. The movement to which

I belonged was called “The When McGruff was King,” the name itself grammatically

incorrect, and was primarily a group who shared an interest in improvisational

performance and sound. The number of members fluctuated between one and

the many; it was never consistent. “McGruff” provided an unstable foundation

on which to pile on any and all forms of expression that could be brought to life

through performance. We adopted established modes of expression such as tribe-

like chants, costume, idol worship, and song; nothing was excluded if suggested. The

performances allowed us to transcend boundaries of what society might classify

useful forms of communication; namely getting somewhere, having a point, a goal or

destination. This experience is closely related to that of the carnival ride; to gain the

fullness of the experience you embrace the chaos, you do not concern yourself with

where the ride is going.

The experiences that make us insecure are often those that cannot be

given a clear definition. In the spirit of discomforting ambiguity, “McGruff”

constantly created new and unclear definitions of people, places and objects.

Upon exposure to “McGruff,” we were stripped of titles and assets that would be

useful in designating an individual’s role in a structured society. Our names were

used interchangeably to offset the structured order of titles and create confusion.

Instruments themselves were redeveloped, restructured, and finally destroyed.

Power tools became instruments. Instruments became weapons. Practice became

finished recordings and performances. Finally, the boundary between audience

and performer was destroyed altogether. The audience took over the stage and

performed a “McGruff” show, as the original performers watched from outside.

Similarly, the sites of “McGruff” performances were various and elusive. As

a general rule, we performed wherever there was space and opportunity to do so.

Performances took place with little or no planning on the street, in people’s houses,

school and church auditoriums or public parks. One member claimed he performed

in front of a large audience in a park somewhere in northern New Jersey, but there

was no documentation or witness to support the claim. The fact of whether this

event actually took place or not was irrelevant to “McGruff” anyhow. Regarding this

undocumented performance as equally valid as any other performance illustrated

how “McGruff” became everyone’s property and no one’s. “McGruff” put us in touch

with a profound truth; that all experiences catalyze into a structured, manageable

form through a collection of arbitrary descriptions that are also susceptible to

scrutiny.

The magic of “McGruff” was bound to fall apart. Like the carnival, after

spending enough time inside you gain familiarity with how it is held together, and

notice that the pieces are made collapsible for the sake of easy transportation;

it must be unfixed to remain potent. Hierarchies were inevitably developed.

Individuals were give titles and responsibilities to ensure the survival and success

of future “McGruff” performances. It is difficult to deny an innate human need to

gain a sense of familiarity with the chaos to avoid interference with the stability of

securing a job, a place to live, and maintaining meaningful relationships. In part,

the spirit of “McGruff” was compromised as its structure became familiar to its

members. In another way, “McGruff” lives as a symbol for those who were part of it

or may yet become part of its spirit; as a phase of uncertainty, danger, and unknown

possibility, the creative experience itself.

Once after a performance in a coffee shop we were approached by a

gentleman in his mid-twenties, who enthusiastically declared, “I’m booking

you guys,” shook each of our hands, and walked away without any information

exchanged that would guarantee such a statement. Like this interaction, the

meaning of McGruff still puzzles me. For some reason the cliché phrase “You

complete me” seems applicable here. Trivial as it may sound, if this statement

has any bearing whatsoever it is in the relationship between structure and anti-

structure. As Winnicott writes, “One can think of the electricity that seems to

generate between meaningful or intimate contact,” in relating to, “the potential

space between the individual and the environment” (p. 98). Once trust is

established, the other provides a support for my vulnerability, just as I provide a

support for theirs. Like the act of play, the relationship between structure and anti-

structure must be variable to endure.

twmwk:

Kristofor Giordano

Religion and Psychology

The Mythology of “The When McGruff Was King”

A theme is common to literature and film; a stranger enters a town and

exposes, intentionally or not, a spiritually decrepit social structure that up until this

point had no reason to defend itself. The trauma released by the collision of society

and outsider is closely related to Winnicott’s study of a baby separated from the

mother. In the acquaintance with the life-threatening absence of the mother’s

breast, Winnicott writes, “Trauma implies that the baby has experienced a break in

life’s continuity, so that primitive defenses now become organized to defend against

a repetition of ‘unthinkable anxiety’…” (p. 98). As the baby develops a system of

memory, it learns to “trust” the surrounding environment through a

gradual “building up of confidence based on experience” (p. 102). For the first time,

the baby may begin to form a relationship with a potentially dangerous outside

world through the act of play.

The role of play, which is essentially a relationship between structure

and anti-structure, familiar and unfamiliar, demonstrates a desire to mingle with

danger and ultimately contain it so that it becomes familiar and non-threatening.

The friction between structure and anti-structure is interesting enough that it has

become a theme for so many works of fiction in literature and film, perhaps because

it can be traced to a memory of our initial experience with the outside world. It is of

interest to me how anti-structure is introduced, and ultimately contained through

the act of play.

In a more commonplace manifestation, the carnival represents a model of

anti-structure; transported into town for a short time, it disrupts the regular order

and activity of the community. Within the carnival, I am introduced to strange often

grotesque faces, and rides, some convincingly life-threatening, that acquaint me

with unfamiliar and chaotic experiences. I may choose to look at the mechanics

behind this life-threatening entity, the structure itself, but I would rather allow

myself to be carried away by its lawlessness for the sake of the lie (that in actuality

it is relatively structured) that needs to be told somehow. I ignore the workers

making the fullness of the illusion possible or the “nuts and bolts” holding the rides

together. These inconsistencies are purposely forgotten to break with the continuity

of a structured life where such “obvious details” reinforce familiarity with the

surrounding environment.

Having been part of a traveling group of “clowns” myself, I will submit my

own experiences in playing with a model of anti-structure. The movement to which

I belonged was called “The When McGruff was King,” the name itself grammatically

incorrect, and was primarily a group who shared an interest in improvisational

performance and sound. The number of members fluctuated between one and

the many; it was never consistent. “McGruff” provided an unstable foundation

on which to pile on any and all forms of expression that could be brought to life

through performance. We adopted established modes of expression such as tribe-

like chants, costume, idol worship, and song; nothing was excluded if suggested. The

performances allowed us to transcend boundaries of what society might classify

useful forms of communication; namely getting somewhere, having a point, a goal or

destination. This experience is closely related to that of the carnival ride; to gain the

fullness of the experience you embrace the chaos, you do not concern yourself with

where the ride is going.

The experiences that make us insecure are often those that cannot be

given a clear definition. In the spirit of discomforting ambiguity, “McGruff”

constantly created new and unclear definitions of people, places and objects.

Upon exposure to “McGruff,” we were stripped of titles and assets that would be

useful in designating an individual’s role in a structured society. Our names were

used interchangeably to offset the structured order of titles and create confusion.

Instruments themselves were redeveloped, restructured, and finally destroyed.

Power tools became instruments. Instruments became weapons. Practice became

finished recordings and performances. Finally, the boundary between audience

and performer was destroyed altogether. The audience took over the stage and

performed a “McGruff” show, as the original performers watched from outside.

Similarly, the sites of “McGruff” performances were various and elusive. As

a general rule, we performed wherever there was space and opportunity to do so.

Performances took place with little or no planning on the street, in people’s houses,

school and church auditoriums or public parks. One member claimed he performed

in front of a large audience in a park somewhere in northern New Jersey, but there

was no documentation or witness to support the claim. The fact of whether this

event actually took place or not was irrelevant to “McGruff” anyhow. Regarding this

undocumented performance as equally valid as any other performance illustrated

how “McGruff” became everyone’s property and no one’s. “McGruff” put us in touch

with a profound truth; that all experiences catalyze into a structured, manageable

form through a collection of arbitrary descriptions that are also susceptible to

scrutiny.

The magic of “McGruff” was bound to fall apart. Like the carnival, after

spending enough time inside you gain familiarity with how it is held together, and

notice that the pieces are made collapsible for the sake of easy transportation;

it must be unfixed to remain potent. Hierarchies were inevitably developed.

Individuals were give titles and responsibilities to ensure the survival and success

of future “McGruff” performances. It is difficult to deny an innate human need to

gain a sense of familiarity with the chaos to avoid interference with the stability of

securing a job, a place to live, and maintaining meaningful relationships. In part,

the spirit of “McGruff” was compromised as its structure became familiar to its

members. In another way, “McGruff” lives as a symbol for those who were part of it

or may yet become part of its spirit; as a phase of uncertainty, danger, and unknown

possibility, the creative experience itself.

Once after a performance in a coffee shop we were approached by a

gentleman in his mid-twenties, who enthusiastically declared, “I’m booking

you guys,” shook each of our hands, and walked away without any information

exchanged that would guarantee such a statement. Like this interaction, the

meaning of McGruff still puzzles me. For some reason the cliché phrase “You

complete me” seems applicable here. Trivial as it may sound, if this statement

has any bearing whatsoever it is in the relationship between structure and anti-

structure. As Winnicott writes, “One can think of the electricity that seems to

generate between meaningful or intimate contact,” in relating to, “the potential

space between the individual and the environment” (p. 98). Once trust is

established, the other provides a support for my vulnerability, just as I provide a

support for theirs. Like the act of play, the relationship between structure and anti-

structure must be variable to endure.

Permalink via twmwk 2 notes
[PHOTO]