[at cornish this weekend for nancy uscher’s inauguration… she put together some panels and workshops as a way of marking her interestin convening and reflection; here’s the intro]
We approach a strange day like we approach any day because every day is strange if we’re awake in art. There’s a Lithuanian Folk Tale that talks about an accordion player who’s walking down the road when he’s approached by a noble who asks him to play at a dance he’s having. The musician agrees – a fantastic palace, the beauty of the world stepping in time. He sees guests going to a table pulling something from a bowl and rubbing it on their eyes. He tries it – one eye… he’s at an horripilation of trolls; they are demonstrating their trollishness to the filth of the night air down in bog-land. The musician flees. Years later he’s visiting in a small house when a stranger comes up and sits down. In one eye, the stranger’s fine, through another eye, he’s a troll. The musician calls the troll out, who says – which eye did you see me with. “This one,” answers the musician. The troll pokes that eye out.
The musician here is weak in a few ways. He left his music when he realized what it gave him access to. Stay in the swamp, it’s where things happen. When accused of art, he answered with an explanation. Never apologize, never explain. And he was wrong in his explanation – he saw the troll with both eyes – he knows the troll as a troll because he knows the non-troll world. One eye/one eye – depth perception is metaphor; metaphor is in the nature of our knowing. To know more, bring to a vanishing point a more astonishing convergence of differences. Love your troll eye.
It’s a great strange day. We’re not sure which eye sees what. The encounter of the new profits from the following sequence: show up authentically, listen for invitation rather than arriving with donation or requirement, respond to the invitation with process rather than answer or object, move through patience to perseverance, and don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
A director friend told me he likes to go into each rehearsal thinking: maybe it’s all wrong – maybe I’ve been wrong about everything. He says this not so that he can correct the situation, but so that he can move forward in ethical instability. For our work to be both fantastic and sustainable, it must be strange and unstable. If art holds the mirror up to nature – who is holding up the mirror? The artist is the third figure in the image, in a mysterious space, the space of the witness.
A school is built to foster unknowing – to unmake our seeing and disturb our capacities. Every day is an opportunity to discover new forms of service. Maybe, present to each other, we’ll discover means of doing less, having less, knowing less and being more – being a space in which another can manifest and become.