Eighth weekly 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.
Looking at Adrienne Rich’s great (short!) essay Permeable Membrane in class…
There’s a permeable membrane between art and society. A continuous dialectical motion. Tides brining the estuary. River flowing into sea. A writer describes the landmass-“stained” current of the Congo River as discernible three hundred miles out on the ocean. Likewise: the matter of art enters the bloodstream of social energy. Call and response. The empathetic imagination can transform, but we can’t identify precise loci of transformation, can’t track or quantify the moments. Nor say how or when they lead, through innumerable unpredictable passageways, toward recreating survival, undermining illegitimate power and its cruelties.
Is poetry, should it be, ‘political’? The question, for me, evaporates once it’s acknowledged that poetic imagination or intuition is never merely unto-itself, free-floating, or self-enclosed. It’s radical, meaning, root-tangled in the grit of human arrangements and relationships: how we are with each other… The makings of art are rooted in non-art labors—repetitive, toxic, body-breaking, minimum wage or less or none—that everywhere underlie those privileged creations.
What is seeing you. Eyes in the thicket, eyes in the street. I need to reach beyond my interior decoration, biography. Art is a way of melting out through one’s own skin. ‘What, who is this about?’ is not the essential question. A poem is not about; it is out of and to. Passionate language in movement.
The makings of art are rooted in non-art labors—repetitive, toxic, body-breaking, minimum wage or less or none—that everywhere underlie those privileged creations.
[Theater as the “seeing place” is as much about the art seeing the audience as the audience seeing the art?]
A citation from a student post on the class blog for Acting Together:
“The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself’ as a product of the historical process to date which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory. Such an inventory must therefore be made at the outset.” – Gramsci
Feast of St. Robert Southwell, Jesuit priest and poet (?1561–1595). On giving way; on loving more perfectly:
I dye alive
O LIFE! what letts thee from a quicke decease?
O death! what drawes thee from a present praye?
My feast is done, my soule would be at ease,
My grace is saide; O death! come take awaye.
I live, but such a life as ever dyes;
I dye, but such a death as never endes;
My death to end my dying life denyes,
And life my living death no whitt amends.
Thus still I dye, yet still I do revive;
My living death by dying life is fedd;
Grace more then nature kepes my hart alive,
Whose idle hopes and vayne desires are deade.
Not where I breath, but where I love, I live;
Not where I love, but where I am, I die;
The life I wish, must future glory give,
The deaths I feele in present daungers lye.
And from today’s Lauds – the wonder of being dependent:
Give me again the joy of your help; with a spirit of fervour sustain me.
– Ps 50
Prepping a class on Jesuit Theater. Such a neophyte; will be honest about my beginner status. Came across Arrupe’s address… An excerpt from near the end
MEN AND WOMEN FOR OTHERS
by Pedro Arrupe, S.J. Superior General of the Society of Jesus. 1973, Valencia, Spain
No; evil is overcome only by good, hate by love, egoism by generosity. It is thus that we must sow justice in our world. To be just, it is not enough to refrain from injustice. One must go further and refuse to play its game, substituting love for self-interest as the driving force of society.
All this sounds very nice, you will say, but isn’t it just a little bit up in the air? Very well, let us get down to cases. How do we get this principle of justice through love down to the level of reality, the reality of our daily lives? By cultivating in ourselves three attitudes:
First, a firm determination to live much more simply – as individuals, as families, as social groups – and in this way to stop short, or at least to slow down, the expanding spiral of luxurious living and social competition. Let us have men and women who will resolutely set themselves against the tide of our consumer society… And if this produces surplus income, well and good; let it be given to those for whom the necessities of life are still luxuries beyond their reach.
Second, a firm determination to draw no profit whatever from clearly unjust sources. Not only that, but going further, to diminish progressively our share in the benefits of an economic and social system in which the regards of production accrue to those already rich, while the cost of production lies heavily on the poor. Let there be men and women who will bend their energies not to strengthen positions of privilege, but, to the extent possible, reduce privilege in favor of the underprivileged. Please do not conclude too hastily that this does not pertain to you…
Third, and most difficult: a firm resolve to be agents of change in society; not merely resisting unjust structures and arrangements, but actively undertaking to reform them. For, if we set out to reduce income in so far as it is derived from participation in unjust structures, we will find out soon enough that we are faced with an impossible task unless those very structures are changed.
And more Arrupe, another trilogy of ideas. Silence (in the sense we’re suggesting with this action) is the clarification of respect (abstinence as compassion), a stand against suborning, a dismantling of structures of authority (in language, e.g.) that are accepted as given, but may be revealed as less than absolute.
Just as love of God, in the Christian view, fuses with love of neighbor, to the point that they cannot possibly be separated, so, too, charity and justice meet together and in practice are identical. How can you love someone and treat him or her unjustly? Take justice away from love and you destroy love. You do not have love if the beloved is not seen as a person whose dignity must be respected, with all that that implies… I do not mean works of justice in a merely individualistic sense. I mean three things:
First, a basic attitude of respect for all people which forbids us ever to use them as instruments for our own profit.
Second, a firm resolve never to profit from, or allow ourselves to be suborned by, positions of power deriving from privilege, for to do so, even passively, is equivalent to active oppression. To be drugged by the comforts of privilege is to become contributors to injustice as silent beneficiaries of the fruits of injustice.
Third, an attitude not simply of refusal but of counterattack against injustice; a decision to work with others toward the dismantling of unjust social structures so that the weak, the oppressed, the marginalized of this world may be set free.
One of my favorite Hopkins poems. One key dramatic point (and pointedly hidden – it is an hermetic moment of revelation – an idea found in stillness) – “Enough!” In love with the world, but more, loving love, and so through the world, in love, to the source of love. The world is useful insofar as it is uncovered and reveals the ground of being.
That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection
– Gerard Manley Hopkins
Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle ín long | lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest’s creases; | in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature’s bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, | joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; | world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.
“Non nobis solum nati sumus – we are not born for ourselves alone.” – Cicero
“Go forth and set the world on fire.” – Ignatius, how he often signed off on letters.
Silence is the moving forth, giving over, burning out, a practice of a condition beyond hope, where, hoping perfectly, we hope hopelessly…