Art occurs at the point where a form is sincerely honored by awakened spirit.
Years ago I did a South African play. It was a true story about a young white doctor who had been arrested for political reasons, tortured and eventually executed. I was told he was the only white man to be executed by the South African government. I played the boy's father. He was a farmer/rancher who had moved from Kenya to South Africa.
The producer of the play had acquired a brief film of the real parents at their son's funeral. Thousand s of people of all races had shown up for the funeral and the parents were amazed. In the film clip they stand there for a few moments, then turn and walk away. The director wanted the actress and I to stand in front of the film and move when the two parents did, tricky business because we couldn't see the film.
Besides the producer, director and assistant director there were a number of African actors in the show. To my knowledge I had never worked with Africans before. They were impressive. I was particularly struck by the fact that the while Africans considered themselves Africans and not anything else. They were not transplanted Englishmen. Other than a shared language and empire they had no connection with Britain or The Netherlands or the culture of any other European nation. They were born and brought up in Africa. They were Africans, first and last.
I was also impressed by the music. It's very distinctive. African music is not Western Rock, it's folk music is not like American folk music. It has a very individual and unmistakable sound. Once you know African music you will immediately recognize it as such. Africans love their music.
Pondering the problem of how to find the cue for the movement away from the film we sat and watched it over again a few times. During the scene in which the film clip occurred there was no dialogue but there was a recording of a sad folk song sung by a group in a native language. After a few times through viewing the film I realized the song ran concurrently with the visual. It was exactly the same every time. Once more and I caught the exact phrase in the song where the movement came and said "I can take it from the music." "No. You can't do that" the director said. "It's too repetitive." "Let me try" I said. So the actress and I stood up while they ran the film and at the precise moment in the song I turned and we walked off just as the two peopl on the film did. The director was impressed.
DB - The Vagabond
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Reprinted from May 13, 2010
In old age we are like a batch of letters someone has sent. We are no longer in the past, we have arrived.
I'm a mad man. No, there's no doubt about it, I'm completely cracked; stark, shivering crazy. I've lost it.
Shakespeare calls old age "second chilishness." It is a theory that all babies are born insane and gradually grow into sanity and wisdom as they mature. I don't remember much about my babyhood but I'm of the opinion that it might be the other way around. I think it's possible that all babies are born completely sane and knowing everything which they can't articulate except to other babies and that they gradually grow to lose it in the carriages and play pens of the world. Imagine how frustrating it must be for a baby not being able to tell anyone what you know. It's enough to make you wet yur diaper and wake up in the middle of the night crying for no apparent reason.
Not having lived a normal life has taught me that there is no such thing. Being a wanderer has taught me that the only place anyone really lives is in his own head. And being an artist has taught me to gracefully let go of the ball and chain which is generally known to the world at large as common sense.
But being mad is a good healthy way to be as far as I can determine. I do illogical things. If I am on my way to the market I stop and feel the leaves of a tree or a bush. If I pass the kitchen sink I squeeze a little soap into the sponge and wash three dishes instead of the whole sink full. If anyone lived with me they would become exasperated at my behavior or else go mad themselves.
I say things no one understands. I know that, because every time I make a statement of pure, simplified wisdom it's met with a blank, uncomprehending stare. There's a small tree in front of the house. When I refer to it as "yonder wood" no one cares to know why.
When I find conservative nonsense and liberal grunting humorous people don't get it. But when I become fascinated by some obscure news item that doesn't make the papers or the TV news every day they just think I'm off the beaten path of life. Well, I am. I'm the crazy old loon who lives by himself in the attic, harmless in his madness. He listens to Wagner operas and reads philosophy. He's a total fruitcake.
The letters have been sent and read and the attempt to summarize the contents has taught me that there are no summations (which it also says in my Profile).
So what's left for an old crackpot to do? To what have I arrived? A certain benign orneriness, acceptance and refusal, an abiding sense of humor, willingness to face the fog and walk into it. I can now change my own diapers, if I wake up in the middle of the night the only thing I want to know is what time it is. I accept the fact that I will never have all the things in my playpen that I want. I refuse to get angry at any one but myself. I refuse to do today what I can put off to tomorrow. I don't follow the Phillies. I refuse to accept everything any authority tells me. I will think for myself and not worry about it if the thoughts come from the mind of a lunatic.
I refuse to be afraid of death. If you go to England you can visit the grave of Charles Dickens, but Dickens isn't there, he's still alive. If I could live my life all over again I would change almost everything. But would I then have something to summarize? I doubt it.
Being an actor has taught me that the world is a stage and the roles keep changing, but they are all masquerades. So I will set Sir Percival spinning, wash my hands and face in the words of some other old maniac's sink, play in my pen and enjoy, as much as possible, the role in which I have somehow cast myself.
DB - The Vagabond