sum 3

Third sum of daily notes, in the run-up to Silence: 2014, a cross-border artistic witness. See the Soulographie site (soulographie dot org) for the day-to-day.


Silence: December 2014.


Artists worldwide to practice silence through the month as they will, in different ways, to deepen global contemplative capacity cross-culturally, and demonstrate mass solidarity.




Snow has it right. It comes with chores, and can be a disaster: but lack of it is also environmentally catastrophic in some ecologies, and – its so nicely quiet. Silence itself comes with chores and can be disastrous. But lack of it will leave us unready for growth when spring opens the door. And silence, like snow, is – pretty.


Winter used to wear me out. The empty branches felt like a cheat – like the trees were taken away, debris in their place. But now I love looking at the shapes. They teach patience. So much is going on – the awesome work of budding is in prep… It takes something as fierce as a winter to yield something as fierce as a leaf. (See also: Scarry’s learning to love palm trees…)


From Anne Carson’s Plainwater


Consider incompleteness as a verb. Every verb has a tense, it must take place in time. Yet there are ways to elude these laws. The Greek verb system includes a tense called aorist (which means ‘unbounded’ or ‘timeless’) to capture that aspect of action win which, for example, a man at noon runs directly on top of his own shadow. So in fr. 13(a) Mimnearmos uses an aorist participle to describe how men move in war. Like acrobats in the psychic misdemeanor we call history, warriors qua warriors live hovering above the moment when action will stop.


This “misdemeanor we call history” gets right at my evolving sense of history. And speechlessness is timelessness? Again the dangerous toggle between the numb and the infinite.




There is a regular sine-flux in the arts between manifesto and business plan. Both make claims on the future and attempt to build out into them with firm structures (the utopia of numbers, the utopia of being-right… both unreal). This life-in-expectation is very useful, and the sine flux works out to a hale average; we’re able to sustain our dying forever. Also needed in a time of dying: revelation.


What is being revealed is clear in me; we are being revealed; we reveal nothing. If I’m remembering the book of the apocalypse correctly (apocalypse/revelation being synonyms) John starts by eating the sacred message… revelation is a process of inner transformation. Silence is revelation. Not-doing can = showing.


Trade expectation for receptivity.


The prayer of the mouth needs to convert to the prayer of the heart (Hesychasm, via Nouwen). To get the prayer to sink, lose words… or use words to lose them (repeat them, internalize them, let them decay back to their origin).


And, Carson (from Plainwater again) –


Your separateness could kill you unless I take it from you as a sickness. What if you get stranded in the town where pears and winter are variants for one another? Can you eat winter? No. Can you live six months inside a frozen pear? No. But there is a place, I know the place, where you will stand and see pear and winter side by side as walls stand by silence. Can you punctuate yourself as silence? You will see the edges cut away from you, back into a world of another kind – back into real emptiness, some would say.


Also –


like lame-wheeled carriages

we creep forth reluctantly

on the journey from the capital

–       Zeami


On dark mornings in Navarre, the fall-off hills rise in masses, flat on top. White clouds bite down on them like teeth. In my country too it is morning now, they are making coffee, they are getting out the black bread. No one eats black bread here. Spanish bread is the same color as the stones that lie along the roadside – gold. True, I often mistake stones for bread. Pilgrims’ hunger is a curious thing.

The road itself was built by pilgrims of ancient times as they walked. Each carried a stone and set it in place. As is clear from the photographs, there were in general stones of quite good size. While the pilgrim’s trudged, they would pretend the stones were loaves of bread, and to keep spirits high, they sang songs about bread, or about the rock that was following them. ¡No me mates con tomate, mátame con bacalao! You can hear this one still, in bars, some nights. Don’t kill me with tomato, kill me with cod! What is it that keep sus from drowning in moments that rise and cover the heart?


“Pilgrims were people whose recipes were simple.”




A function of silence may be to teach continuity… By refraining from the piston-like back-and-forth of speech production (or sometimes like a hammer – force directed out), we can retrieve realization that we are work very hard doing something that has already been done.


Speech modifies our environment, and establishes us in it… But the environment is in very basic ways already complete, and we’re already where we are (knocking and knocking; there is no door).


Living in time, endless positioning and repositioning is necessary to maintain our movement along a line; and if a rock is about to fall on somebody’s head, we’d be wrong not to say and do something about it. But we operate in continuity with accident, not as stable monitors.


Rather than accepting making-and-taking as our urgent purpose (the drive to complete the universe), we stop to consider ourselves as extending into incompleteness from completeness.


First, we’re still. We’re already said.




Exile can sometimes be viewed as a form of showing up. Why move as if we could ever, possibly, move away? What we’re calling exile is establishing a new center…

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