Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oh, I get it!

I have had a revelation. It came to me out of nowhere really, as I was in the shower. I was thinking about a play called 'Equus' that is all about ritual, and it made me think about ritualistic practices in general.
About two years ago I was having a discussion about ritual with a former friend of mine. We have contrasting views as to its validity. At the time, I could not understand why one would resort to a ritual in order to explore the emotional self. I asked her what the purpose was of pretending, instead of dealing with the issue directly. She was rather offended, (understandably so, I think) and cried out, 'It's NOT pretending!'

I finally understand what she means. Ritual is performance art. It is as valid as any other art form. In the same way I can reach my Self through figurative language, through poetry, and through theatre, others can reach their inner self through ritual. I used to be unable to comprehend how it was possible to reach the self through a ritual that was created by another, and that because its structure was constructed by a foreign entity it could not possibly lead the individual onto the path towards self-realization. But it's just like literature... or looking at a painting. The creative process comes not from the literal construction of the artwork, but through an internal interpretation. It is a structure erected for the communication with the divine, but it is only a structure. It is the responsibility of the individual to make that communication.

I get it. I finally get it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How are We, that We are not One?

I have had an epiphany. Last night I had a frightening dream about the end of the world... and that God appeared as a type of funnel cloud in the sky (spiral imagery), though it did not speak. It started to rain, but I knew the world was going to burst into flame. I was alone, looking at the storm brewing, and my father called me into the house. Everyone was cowering in the cellar, and I was terrified of death, of dying. We all prayed some kind absurd prayer, one of those meaningless repititions of "Our Father". I was afraid of being turned into dust, and in the dream I shook myself awake out of a desire to know the Presence of God.

I lay awake thinking of the utter Absence of this Presence I had wanted to feel. This brought me to think about the own nature of my existence, and where the self resides... like in that song "is it in your head or between your sides"... I started thinking about the many selves contained within my Self, and wondering whether or not this Self I like to think of as one separate unity is not in truth a compilation of many selves, each with their own separate consciousness. And if that is the case, my desire for individuality really negates itself... And then out of nowhere I said aloud, "How are we, that we are not One?"

How are we, that we are not One? What is that a reference to? Did I mean, "How can I be many if I am contained within one concrete substance?" Or was this an even deeper thought... Did I mean, "How are we, as people and gods, capable of separating ourselves, when we are indeed all connected on some deeper and more essential plane of existence?" OR was I espousing the beliefs of apophatic theology??

It was a very strange experience

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Modern Face of the Other?

I've been reading Foucault again, and it made me think about the natural progression of the Other. Foucault describes the natural progression as beginning with the lepper, in which exclusion is as necessary to the sufferer as to the society; after the threat of leprosy dissipated, it was replaced by criminality and houses of correction; and soon that socially constructed Other was replaced with the face of Madness. I believe that science has subdued our anxiety of the Madman, and has now replaced it with a fear of the Aged.

When we look at the withered face of Age, we see in it that skeletal grin of Death. We try to disguise Age; we avoid it. We cut open our faces, lift up our skin, wear our masks, all in an attempt to conceal the Truth of our own mortality, to silence that uncomfortable wailing that is screaming back at us. And those prophets of death who cannot be silenced, the truly Aged who cannot hide their identity, we imprison in our own modern day lazar houses and asylums: the formidable Nursing Home.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Forever in search of the Middle Way

I have grown a lot in this past year. I have combined my world of silence and solitude with the world of community, and in doing so I have found myself. I have learned to be alone without being lonely, and to be silent without being silenced. I have put my artistic talents to use, have constucted purpose, and have gained respect among colleagues and mentors. I have also found he who is both my doppelganger and my shadow, he who enrages me and dissatisfies me, but from whom I have learned a great deal about myself. He is a funhouse mirror, and when I look into him I see a distorted reflection of myself, and the values I once held. Knowing him has been a privledge, although one may not think so, judging by the many many argurments we have had throughout the past year. Furthermore, this past year has taught me a lot about my own drives, and the very nature of my own existence. I still believe strongly in the necessary function of reason; that is not something I could ever reject. But I have learned about the folly of Excess.

Reading Ovid's Metamorphoses reaquainted me with the Icarus myth. I had always heard of the myth, but never actually read it, and so I was surprised to find that the orders of Daedalus were not, "Do not fly too close to the sun", but rather:

"Take care to fly a middle course, lest if you should sink
Too low the waves may weight your feathers, if
Too high, the heat may burn them."

THUS the myth of Icarus was NOT about Pride. In fact, the concept of Pride is nowhere mentioned. The myth is a warning about Excess. Icarus was to take the Middle Way, between the emotional chaos of the sea and the burning heights of rationality. Overindulgence in either leads to madness, and death. And I was also surprised when, in my psychology and literature class, my professor made the same claim. It reinforced my ideas completely, and gave me the confidence to know that what I percieved was Truth, or at least an aspect of it. I had thought that one must make a choice between the emotional and the rational. I had thought the two were separate entities that could never be reconciled. My fear of the one led me too close to the other, and I Fell. I had never considered a balance, never contemplated the Middle Way, but this Death has brought about rebirth.

I am aware now. And I hope the more emotional mind can see the importance of reason, as I can see the importance of emotion.