The Republic was a dream

12 12 2008

Still mulling the Ainadamar experience. The gathering-together for a purpose: the musicians and singers to perform, the audience to take in this performance. Yes, there was planning—practice, rehearsals—and those of us in attendance knew what was to be performed and who would perform.

But the. . . power? force? of the live performance is that it is live, i.e., that it is unpredictable, that anything could happen. Unpredictable is usually bad, insofar as it’s associated with things like falling lights or malfunctioning, er, wardrobes, or, as in the case of the Austrian actor, stabbing oneself with a real rather than prop knife. But what of the silence at the end of the performance? Is that usual? Why was it? Were we soaking it in? Waiting to hear if there’d be more music? Not wanting to clap ‘out of turn’? Just letting the moment be?

I don’t know. Any or all or none of the above. Regardless, it bound us all together, suspended us in a held breath, a silence both fraught and still.

I could not have imagined this. I could not have experience this in my apartment, or alone in that theatre. The performers threw themselves out there, and we could only marvel at their flight, and catch them at the end.

Am I making too much of this? No; I am making too little. It was as  mentioned in a previous post, and as I told Jtt.: The performers opened themselves to us, but I couldn’t open myself to them, not enough.

When I say the performers lay themselves bare, I don’t mean in every way. I knew almost nothing about them beforehand, and almost nothing after—performance ain’t group therapy. No, I mean a nakedness at the moment of performance, in the revelation of that part of themselves which was crucial to the performance itself. Sing Margarita, sing Lorca, sing Nuria and Ruiz Alonso, and bring yourself forth in bringing them forth.

It is an act of discipline and bravery.

I am sobered by all they brought forth, and my inability to respond in kind. I recognized this failing during the performance, as I kept yanking myself out of the moment. But it’s not just about ‘being in the moment’; there is also the willingness to let oneself be carried away by the moment. I wouldn’t, couldn’t, sustain that.

And yet, as I told Jtt., I could at least see this, I could see that being carried away isn’t always all bad. Carapaces and defenses and distances all have their place in my life—I do not yearn for my juvenile melodramatic self—but snark and detachment can get in the way of wonder.

I’ve joked with my students that political science doesn’t really deal with passion—‘we don’t do love’—and as such, misses so much of what drives people to meetings and demonstrations and to take part in all the scut work which is a necessary part of political action. And an analytic which doesn’t take heed of Arendt’s observation that politics happens when people gather together, that political power arises from that purposeful gathering, will miss both the passion and the purpose.

The gathering at Carnegie Hall this past Sunday was not a political one. But it was a reminder of the power of the gathering, of the purpose of passion.


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