Fourth 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; click “from Erik”.
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.
I had breakfast this morning; there was enough food. I was not in trouble, not at risk when I reached for it. I was safe. I had water to wash a pot, a bowl and a spoon; I had places to put them. Given this array, can’t I use the points of property to define an area, a hospitality? And the area is bigger, the further apart I set the points. Can’t I admit that I have privilege enough to make space, to empty a space? Empty space activates my will, give it license to move out of me. First: don’t have, don’t hold. Then: the will is public property. This is the magic charm of Adrienne Kennedy’s writing, for example… (More on Kennedy, below.)
Neruda… The fertility of silence; origin is darkness (language is rooted in the inchoate; language reaches down as well as up). When we move, when we develop, we exceed ourselves – stretch into what we’re not. We remember that the dramaturgical drive for clarity is based in a desire for invisibility – clarity as in transparency – the content is pure momentum. Light (voiceless) buzzes with activity; to ask permission is to ask leave… to ask for vacated space in which to work (to buzz).
from I Ask for Silence (trans. Alastair Reid)
But because I ask for silence,
don’t think I’m going to die.
The opposite is true;
it happens I’m going to live.
To be, and to go on being.
I will not be, however, if, inside me,
the crop does not keep sprouting,
the shoots first, breaking through the earth
to reach the light;
but the mothering earth is dark,
and, deep inside me, I am dark.
I am a well in the water of which
the night leaves stars behind
and goes on alone across fields.
It’s a question of having lived so much
that I want to live that much more.
I never felt my voice so clear,
never have been so rich in kisses.
Now, as always, it is early.
The light is a swarm of bees.
Let me alone with the day.
I ask leave to be born.
Fridays are Tenderloin Opera days (and soon to be Acting Together days – a course I’m teaching that follows Acting Together on the World Stage, case studies and reflections on performance-for-social-change), so some of our latest lyrics below. Per an earlier post – we meet weekly with persons who are homeless and homeless advocates to write songs and scenes that turn into an opera each year in April…
We’re getting ready for a Homeless Memorial today (we’ll be singing a song at the services)… This is an annual event in honor of people who died on the streets, or as a direct result of no/substandard housing.
Memory, in the context of a memorial in any event, is less about looking back on history than it is about making the past, present. Memorials are often quiet (or – ecstatic) because the present needs to be vacated. Silence: December 2014 has some of the characteristics of a memorial? As does every protest?
This song comes from a place in the play where one character discovers that the man she loves is secretly an opera singer… She hears him sing this on the radio –
Your own four walls.
Can come and go
As you please.
On my stove,
My own meals.
Can come and go
As you please
The heart is the home
Of love and you’re not alone
Sometimes being daring
So the beauty is shown
On the smile you’re wearing
Is where the heart is.
Being able to
For my family
Affordable, and a key
Is where the heart is at peace
Any place you feel content
Where you want your life spent
Love, laughter, family
A place of peace, just for me
Go big and
Peace of mind
Windows and doors and
Choices to open or close
Making my own rules
Save and secure
Clean and warm and fed
You’re the one place that I’ve found a home
You’re the most important thing in my life
Who are you?
My beautiful wife
Adrienne Kennedy is the best American writer. I know of no one else with such flat-out faith in the power of words to create a vibrating, dark and living space between the horrible and the funny the past and the prophetic, the personal and the public – a space so magically strong that the private can be converted to the public (the commonplaces of biography treated as civil monuments, as lore, with atavistic authority), and the public to the private (where the events of history are made to appear as features of a deeply individual dream).
Struck by two passages in Acts… Steven outlines the history of the world for his tormentors just before he’s stoned. A refrain – “They pushed him aside.” The prophet is pushed – by the people, away from the life of the people, or (by God) into the exile of God. Pushed aside. Later, Saul, having changed to Paul, is in danger; his supporters break a hole in a wall and lower him in a basket…
Silence is “aside;” silence is a hole. Text is a basket; text is faith in return.
Living life as if life were living; as if life were flowing into us – as if we were the river receiving the baby and not the baby adrift. To a baby, in a basket, on a river, a baby with forming eyes and no glossary, existence is dimensionless (silent). The dimensions of a life are birth and death; living is dimensionless, and always beginning.
To be saved, one needs a basket, it seems. Moses, Saul, Lazarus… To get anywhere in terms of our personal narratives, we need to be carried on silence; we need the darkness (in the sense of dimensionless, baby-eyed, baby-glossed perception).
The personality is the tangle of opposing drives, each guided by madness (a motion from self to other in a radical way) and moderated by a conscious will. So – dueling hedonisms. In a typical match up, we are mad for cause-and-effect – versus mad for permanence. Technology and root source, the power of the fake versus the power of the real (each as fake and real as each other), the order of control and the order of abandon…
We need some madness to get anything done. We need the gods. The gods need us as members and senses in this world. Madness will kill us if it is not alloyed with compassion. Compassion is the protection of self in its flight to the other, and the host of the other as it is brought into safety and parlay with the self. (Phaedrus, the Bacchae.)
Silence begets compassion (Evagrius).