Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How Not To Be

"Secular" sources from which I've found inspiration about the "spiritual" life: part 1


(This is pretty long, so I've bolded the parts that cut to the heart of the matter, for easy skimming.)

From David Mamet's True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor:

My philosophical bent and thirty years' experience inform me that nothing in the world is less interesting than an actor on the stage involved in his or her own emotions. The very act of striving to create an emotional state takes one out of the play. It is the ultimate self-consciousness, and though it may be self-consciousness in the service of an ideal, it is not less boring for that.

The actor on the stage, looking for or striving to create a "state" in himself can think only of one of two things: (a) I have not reached the required state yet; I am deficient and must try harder; or (b) I have reached the required state, how proficient I am! (at which point the mind, ever jealous of its preogatives,will reduce the actor to (a).

Both (a) and (b) take the actor right out of the play. For the mind cannot be forced. It can be suggested, but it cannot be forced. An actor onstage can no more act upon the order "Be happy" than she can act upon the order "Do not think of a hippopotamus."

Our emotional-psychological makeup is such that our only response to an order to think or feel anything is rebellion. Think of the times someone suggested that you "cheer up," of the perfect young person your friends wanted to fix you up with, of the director who suggested you "relax." ...If one were truly able to command one's conscious thoughts, to summon emotion at will, there would be no neurosis, no psychosis, no psychoanalysis, no sadness.

...The skill of acting is finally a physical skill; it is not a mental exercise, and has nothing whatever to do with the ability to pass a test.

The skill of acting is not the paint-by-numbers ability to amalgamate emotional oases--to string them like pearls into a performance (the Method). Nor is it the mastery of syntax (the academic public speaking model). The skill of acting is like the skill of sport, which is a physical event. And like that endeavor, its difficulty consists to a large extent in being much simpler than it seems. Like sports, the study of acting consists in the main of getting out of ones' own way, and in learning to deal with uncertainty and being comfortable being uncomfortable....

The opportunity for bravery is always there--it is always in the play itself.

Let me explain. The actor says to himself, "I can't play this scene because I am unprepared; I can't play it because I don't like the other actor, who is a swine; I feel that the moment is wrong as the director has interpreted it; I feels this flies in the face of my preparation; the script isn't as good as I thought it was," and so on.

All of these feelings are engendered by the script and they are always and only engendered by the script...and all our excuses, all those supposed "impediments" to acting are, if we listen closely, merely the play asserting itself. The actor creates excuses not to act and attributes her reluctance to everything in the world except the actual cause. The play itself has brought her to life in ways she had not foreseen, and she doesn't like it one small bit... ..Acting...requires not tidiness, not paint-by-numbers intellectuality, but immediacy and courage...

In life there is no emotional preparation for loss, grief, surprise, betrayal, discovery; and there is none onstage either....

...When the performance is made truthful, the work of the writer is made something more than words on the page, not by the inventiveness but by the courage of the actor. Yes, it might seem like a good, and might seem like an attractive idea to embellish--it's your job to resist that attractive idea...Invent nothing. Deny nothing. Develop that hard habit.

...The addition of "emotion" to a situation which does not organically create it is a lie. First of all, it is not emotion. It is a counterfeit of emotion, and it is cheap...The greatest performances are seldom noticed. Why? Because they do not draw attention to themselve, and do not seek to--like any real heroism, they are simple and unassuming, and seem to be a natural and inevitable outgrowth of the actor.

...Any system built on belief functions through the operations of guilt and hypocrisy. Such a system, whether of acting training, meditation, self-improvement, etc., functions as a pseudo-religion...The system holds itself out as the alleviator, cleanser, and redeemer of the guilty individual.

Now, none of us is free of self-doubt, and none of is free of guilt. We all have thoughts, feelings, episdoes, and tendencies which we would rather did not exist.

...Curiously, the state these systems profess to cure--anxiety, guilt, nervousness, self-consciousness, ambivalence--is the human condition...and, coincidentally, the stuff of art....

You went into the theatre to get an explanation. That is why everyone goes into the theatre...Your fear, your self-doubt, your vast confusion (you are facing an ancient mystery--drama--of course you're confused) do not mar you.

...Respect for the audience is the foundation of all legitimate actor training--speak up, speak clearly, open yourself out, relax your body, find a simple objective....The actor before the curtain, the soldier going into combat, the fighter into the arena, the athlete before the event, may have feelings of self-doubt, fear, or panic. These feelings will or will not appear, and no amount of "work on the self" can eradicate them.

The rational individual will, when the bell rings, go out there anyway to do the job she said she was going to do. This is called courage.

...Acting, like any art, can be learned, finally, only in the arena.

One can read all one wants, and spend eternity in front of a blackboard with a tutor, but one is not going to learn to swim until one gets in the water--at which point the only "theory" which is going to be useful is that which keeps one's head up. Just so with acting...

...Acting is a physical art. It is close to the study of dance or of singing. It is not like the study of mechanical drawing or literature....

Let the politicians have their fixed smiles and their crocodile tears, let them be the unabashed promoters of their own capacity to feel. Let us be circumspect and say the words as simply as possible, in an attempt to accomplish a goal like that delineated by the author--and then both our successes and our failures can have dignity.


Saturday, August 21, 2010



Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability-
and that it may take a very long time

And so I think it is with you.
your ideas mature gradually-let them grow
let them shape themselves, without undue hast.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.


Monday, August 16, 2010

It Might Be Harder


It might be harder to suffer WITH someone than to merely
suffer instead of that person.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Max Picard's Mythopoetic Vision of How We "Wound the Invisible"


"Formerly it was commonly known that the space about men and things, that is to say, the atmosphere, was to be respected. One moved carefully, as if afraid to wound the invisible. Man threaded his way between men and things, he did not break into them. One moved slowly, for one was broad and heavily laden with the invisible. Now, however, the space about men and things is destroyed. Man himself destroyed this space. Man wishes to be everywhere quickly and wants to put everything everywhere. That is why he drove the invisible away,--it is too much in the way for a man in a hurry.

But now, when man has emptied space of the invisible, it seems as if space were drawing him into the emptiness; it seems as if no automobile or airship can ever be fast enough to save him from being drawn into the emptiness...

....That is why the men of today are so easily annoyed by each other: it is the atmosphere that they lack, the atmosphere which served to keep men apart, and prevented them from bumping into each other. A man moves into another's atmosphere and that person is not only annoyed, he is also confused. And most important: when the invisible is destroyed, the visible too diminishes gradually. The powers of the invisible cease to flow into that man and that is why he becomes thinner and less concentrated. He may remain as before, his contours may not change, but within his contours he has diminished in substance, and gradually he becomes an incorporeal imitation of himself..."

Picard, The Human Face


Wednesday, August 11, 2010



"...God, Who 'is a jealous God,' will not settle for a mere portion of our heart...

The great tragedy of our time lies in the fact that we live, speak, think, and even pray to God, outside our heart, outside our Father's house. And truly our Father's house is our heart, the place where the 'spirit of glory and of God; would find repose, that Christ 'may be formed in us.'"

Archimandrite Zacharias, The Hidden Man of the Heart


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Transfiguration Poem

By Edward Muir:

The Transfiguration

So from the ground we felt that virtue branch
Through all our veins till we were whole, our wrists
As fresh and pure as water from a well,
Our hands made new to handle holy things,
The source of all our seeing rinsed and cleansed
Till earth and light and water entering there
Gave back to us the clear unfallen world.
We would have thrown our clothes away for lightness,
But that even they, though sour and travel stained,
Seemed, like our flesh, made of immortal substance,
And the soiled flax and wool lay light upon us
Like friendly wonders, flower and flock entwined
As in a morning field. Was it a vision?
Or did we see that day the unseeable
One glory of the everlasting world
Perpetually at work, though never seen
Since Eden locked the gate that’s everywhere
And nowhere? Was the change in us alone,
And the enormous earth still left forlorn,
An exile or a prisoner? Yet the world
We saw that day made this unreal, for all
Was in its place. The painted animals
Assembled there in gentle congregations,
Or sought apart their leafy oratories,
Or walked in peace, the wild and tame together,
As if, also for them, the day had come.
The shepherds’ hovels shone, for underneath
The soot we saw the stone clean at the heart
As on the starting-day. The refuse heaps
Were grained with that fine dust that made the world;
For he had said, ‘To the pure all things are pure.’
And when we went into the town, he with us,
The lurkers under doorways, murderers,
With rags tied round their feet for silence, came
Out of themselves to us and were with us,
And those who hide within the labyrinth
Of their own loneliness and greatness came,
And those entangled in their own devices,
The silent and the garrulous liars, all
Stepped out of their dungeons and were free.
Reality or vision, this we have seen.
If it had lasted but another moment
It might have held forever! But the world
Rolled back into its place, and we are here,
And all that radiant kingdom lies forlorn,
As if it had never stirred; no human voice
Is heard among its meadows, but it speaks
To itself alone, alone it flowers and shines
And blossoms for itself while time runs on.
But he will come again, it’s said, though not
Unwanted, unsummoned; for all things,
Beasts of the field, and woods, and rocks, and seas,
And all mankind from end to end of the earth
Will call him with one voice. In our own time,
Some say, or at a time when time is ripe.
Then he will come, Christ the uncrucified,
Christ the discrucified, his death undone,
His agony unmade, his cross dismantled -
Glad to be so – and the tormented wood
Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree
In a green springing corner or young Eden,
And Judas damned take his long journey backward
>From darkness into light and be a child
Beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal
Be quite undone and never more be done.


I wonder how/if this correlates with liturgy at all


From an announcement by the International Council of Kinetography Laban/Labanotation

Observing and experiencing stillness in dance choreography
by Oona Haaranen, Finland/USA

Paper and workshop presentation

This paper and workshop utilizes Labanotated dance scores and motif writing as a way to observe and analyze stillness and to explain the varied uses of stillness as they appear and disappear in two twentieth century choreographer’s works: George Balanchine’s Tarantella’s solo and Anna Sokolow’s Rooms, Escape solo. Sokolow’s use of stillness is in sharp contrast to Balanchine’s. Escape spends 8.16 percent in total stillness, while Tarantella’s use of total stillness is 2.09 percent. Tarantella utilizes partial stillness for 41.66 percent of its length and Escape uses partial stillness for 63.13 percent. The only similarities in both works are that the amount of total stillness is greater during partial stillness and total stillness is smaller when it abruptly takes place inside a traveling sequence. In Sokolow’s Escape, solo, stillness is primarily used as subtext with internal focus while in Balanchine’s Tarantella solo, stillness is postural in nature and is mainly used as punctuation.

Below are the concepts of stillness that will be explored, discovered and further defined through creative movement study:

1. Total stillness:complete absence of movement
2.Partial stillness: a) Partial stillness in space
b) Partial stillness in the body

Oona Haaranen, BFA Juilliard, MA in Dance Research and Reconstruction from The City College of New York. Oona was born in Finland where she first studied dance and music. She danced with the Finnish National Theater and Helsinki City Theater, working with Jorma Uotinen among others. In 1992 Ms. Haaranen brought her vision of dance to the creation of her own company, The Oona Haaranen Dance Company, NYC. Since 1990, she has belonged to the dance faculties of The New York City College, St. Joseph’s College and New York University. Ms. Haaranen is currently the Education Director Consultant for Brooklyn Ballet.