[yep, behind. back home at last, for a bit, during graduation season, which i love. have tomorrow’s speech written but want to hammer on it a bit more. so meanwhile, here’s from last year. tomorrow – shorter! i should also speak with you about a) the granoff center and b) the curricular approach to the workshop process – the weevil’s way in! and a special shout out to the calarts students i miss, too.]
Brown Grad, 2010
Three words and a song.
Elation, elegance, exaltation
Elation: translation, to move, move through, particularly: the experience of change; to carry, bear, ferry; brown bear is how we bear Brown forward, offering memory as promise embodied. “The lifted spirit” is the spirit alive; it is the nature of spirit to impart the corporal sense of splendor, to carry us to transparency, monstration; the individual human is lens or spectacle – you each are a way we see God. Being is delightful. The first constructed definition, was delight. “And God saw the light, that it was good.” Living light, is rising up, is reading out. Be and be delighted, you are heaven-read.
Elegance: Eligere, choose carefully, elect; electron is Greek for “amber;” electricity was originally produced by rubbing it; amber is brown. Trouble Brown and all institutions carefully through intentional, economical, perseverant acts of discernment. Write your own book, read by your own lights. Keep your electricity together. Discernment is not about marking pristine variation and establishing walls, it is about recognizing diversity and variance as a tools for intimacy. Discernment’s map is topographical; there is abundant difference but no borders. There’s that great scene in Genet’s Un chant d’amour where two prisoners, in love with each other, share the smoke of one cigarette by a straw passed through a hole in a cell wall. Where there is a wall, be the space in it. For every structure you build, auger conduit. To simplify the world, give way.
Exaltation: Ex, exodus, get up, get out to wide mindfulness; the “alt” in alterity and altered state, is the root of the word “old.” Alter kaker. Get old. An altar is a ladder, is height through sacrifice, the mountain grows invisible behind in the climbing; as you rise uprise and become: upset and revise. Be awake when comes to pass the revolution your electrical agitation has crackled through the clouds. Adore life and grow old. In your sanity, articulate. With sober tongue in the halleluiah mouth the sensation of ecstacy is the feel of voiced praise rising up through your body. “How the deep ecstatic pain/Thy being’s strength would capture!/Without language for the rapture,/Without music strong to come/And set the adoration free,/For ever, ever, wouldst thou be…/God-stricken to seraphic agony.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Love and say so; write it down. As you are glorified by The Reader of Light, so will you write, so you will write light.
Elation, elegance, exaltation.
We pass time carefully today to deepen a pledge:
To read, to wait spaciously, to write
To experience, to give way, to give rise to and care for experience
Most important is the nothing in this. The clarity, the charity.
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite says in The Mystical Theology
“Supernal Triad, Deity above all essence, knowledge and goodness; direct our path to the ultimate summit of your mystical knowledge, most incomprehensible, most luminous and most exalted, where pure, absolute and unchanging mysteries are veiled in the dazzling obscurity of the secret Silence, outshining all brilliance with the intensity of their Darkness, and surcharging our blinded intellects with the utterly impalpable and invisible fairness of glories surpassing all beauty.”
Know nothing and do less. Better to be the riverbed than the water – a space – without it, we’ve just got a bunch of water, and it’s the riverbed that grows old, that survives the drought. Wisdom refrains from right answers, preferring the circumstances of permission. Solomon didn’t say which woman was mother to the child, he scripted a situation in which they could reveal their true natures. As students of theater you commit yourselves to truth made like this – to levity, to incisive and available style, and to stewardship of considerate space – space for consideration. Hospitality.
Coltrane, Pt. 4 of Love Supreme
“Words, sounds, speech, men, memory; thoughts, fears and emotions – time – all related… all made from one… all made in one. God will wash away all our tears… He always has… He always will. God breathes through us so completely… so gently we hardly feel it… yet it is our everything. Thank you God. ELATION – ELEGANCE – EXALTATION”
You need this equipment, this literal light-heartedness, because:
Culture promotes a mysticism of acquisition, where property is advertised as best when private, and when privacy is simultaneously made more occult and inaccessible. The world is glamorized, cast as magical in its promises. And those promises are encoded, to be played towards and not reached, except by a restricted priesthood. Capital is the pantheism of desire and anti-theology against immediacy, against ever being here, with each other, in the perfect and universal society of being.
New Orleans seemed to test the full measure of mourning with Katrina… and now this. Katrina was no natural disaster and Deep Water isn’t an industrial accident, these events are the consequences of an economic culture that puts expediency, practicality, and privilege above hospitable stewardship. The Gulf images tacit premises of the contract we have made with resources. We counter the hyperbole of our gluttony with the byproducts of it. We attempt to inhibit our morbid machine with a feast of trash. Top kill meets bottom kill, because killing is the currency. The poor in the ninth ward didn’t have levies; they were the levy. The marshes will lay down and the nurse oysters disabled from making beds and wiping wounds. The poor will be set out as a bar against our experience of pollution.
Practicality leads to dead end tautology. The inert needs of commerce trump natural disposition. There were Puritans who endorsed poverty as an accurate mark of sin, while banning dancing. Yes to poverty, no to dancing. There are markets that promote self-reliance (the worst idea in the past 500 years, and fading); while banning gay marriage. The lonely are easier to hire, fire and sell to than a fortified communion of souls.
We are not separate. Theaters too, throw garbage at financial troubles. They will want to fill, to glut space – physical, emotional intellectual. Work, whatever the esthetic, must be excellent, and not so useful to the status quo. Excellent, in the sense that it is elated – meaning lifted, meaning out of place; elegant, meaning simple… and the form of a question is simpler than the form of an answer because a question is preparation for content, roomy; the amazement that invites grace. Excellent in the sense of exultant – meaning on-behalf-of, free. Our ineffectuality, our persistent breakdown, our impracticality, our marginality to market based reasoning, is our gift. Hospitality is sabotage. This is ethical, not esthetic. There is sabotage in the sweet, sweet gladness of a well-timed, socially-owned and open-hearted rendering of You’re a Good Man Charley Brown, a production of which at the Croton Children’s Theater with a cast of one hundred has fortified me forever against cant and cynicism – the authenticity of it set a permanent limit on my ability to sense unhappiness.
Tolstoy offers a challenge, not a verdict in The Kingdom of God is Within You:
“People who own great estates or fortunes like to believe that the privileges they enjoy are not the result of force, but of absolutely free and just interchange of services, and that their advantages have no kind of connection with acts of violence.
“All these men and those who depend on them, their wives, tutors, children, cooks, actors, jockeys, and so on, are living on the blood which by one means or another is drawn out of the working class. They see the sufferings and privations of these laborers and their children; they know the punishments inflicted on those who resist organized plunder, and far from concealing their luxury, they display it as though intentionally provoking them with the pomp of their parks and palaces, their theaters, hunts, and races. These people have so entered into their part, that they seriously believe they really are what they pretend to be. Hypocrisy in the Greek means ‘acting,’ and acting – playing a part – is always possible.”
Redeeming acting, art and play from duplicity, we refer to our authentic natures. The severest weapons we can bear against a world that would divide us from ourselves so w have to buy ourselves back, are: free joy, the organic barter of agape (where giving way is your security), and the erotics of presence.
We are lately fascinated by machines; we can distribute faster and sell more effectively; we can make ourselves busier than ever in world history. You graduate at the right time, at a time where a real difference is about to be made. The hunger is out there for a more truly expensive system – for a system that improves meaning, that requires fidelity, that brings communities together in ways that cost and cause changes of the heart.
Be with, be for, be between all things.
Space is our business. This space – this welcome, this meeting place, is the ground of our being. Be mercilessly gleeful, your subversion organized with the nice precision of courtesy – dearly drastic.
Soul is what within us has a future; nothing else does. Preserve your soul at all costs.
Given an evenness of choices, prefer joy.
And as Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros say in Nitcomb: It’s going to be all right
It’s going to be all right
Break Restraint Open, Withholding Nothing
Breach Rationality, Operating Wistful Narratives
Ban Reflexive Obfuscation, Wrapping Natterers
Broadcast Risible Options When Needled
Blow Riches Over Worldwide Need
[Bear Righteously Our Wonderful News]
Be Repeating One Word: Now
From this valley they say you are going
We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened our pathways awhile
Come and sit by my side, if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
Just remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy who loved you so true