Friday, April 09, 2010

DIARY 123 - Troubles Braids

I've never been one who actively enjoys, or seeks to create, situations of contention or controversy, I find myself temperamentally averse to them. In the last week, however, I've stumbled into the centre of a hornets nest of upset and disapproval. The cause was my starting a work project to convert the lunchtime sleep room into a small lunchtime shrine room. I was expecting there would be some resistance, but nothing too major. But within a day there was a petition, with an ever increasing number of names appearing on it. Any collective warehouse meetings I was present at, had an awkward atmosphere with an unvoiced strongly negative feeling tangibly hovering. Eyes avoided connecting with mine.

The accusation was 'a lack of consultation', which was true, there was none, because I mistakenly thought it wasn't such a big deal, so wouldn't be necessary. Though I doubt that lack of consultation was really the issue, nor that if I had done any, that it would have made the slightest difference to the level of reactivity. I've been reflecting over the last week on consultation. Folk usually cry out about a lack of consultation only when something happens that they don't agree with. When its something they agree with, there is rarely a call for consultation then. Only a psycho-pedant would consistently call for consultation on every occasion or circumstance. So prior consultation, though seeming so reasonable, isn't what its about really.

Consultation has the virtue of sounding principled, whilst secretly being partisan. It passively punches someone in the face, whose viewpoint you don't like - you didn't consult me you bastard!! A call for consultation is often a procedural obfuscation, politicians use it all the time. If a policy initiative goes down badly its buried in a consultative process. By the time the consultative committee reports, passions have cooled, and no one quite remembers what the fuss was about. So, several months later, whether the committee comes out in favour or against a governments policy, no one gives a fig. Whilst your in such a process you're delaying taking that unpopular decision. Calls for consultation are frequently using a democratic process, either as a form of smokescreen, or to bury the oppositions viewpoint in it .

Anyway, I wrote a response, explaining what I was doing and why, for publication in the weekly Newsletter. I've had a number of bits of positive feedback, but there are still some faces even more set in stony disapproval. Though the issue seems small, its caused all this furore, touching a raw nerve or two. It represents a dichotomy in Windhorse, and more broadly, between individual needs and habits and collective practice and spiritual vitality in a Sangha. The two often work against each other. So in this case, sleep is set as having a higher value in the hierarchy of needs than meditating. As Windhorse currently has no freely available space for anyone to meditate in every lunchtime, this is to my mind a calamity of significant proportions. Effecting any change in a Buddhist business is, paradoxically, more difficult than in an ordinary business hierarchy.

The effect on me of all this has been the arising of a huge amount of fear and anxiety. I don't know exactly what I'm fearful of happening - but disapproval, being ostracised, hated or attacked verbally or physically, are definitely in there as chief suspects. There is no talking myself out of this reaction, its something from my existential being that I just have to endure. I took my time over my written response, and I think in the end I got the tone right, reasonable, but clear where I stood. After all ,I stand to gain very little from this, I want to do it for the benefit of everyone, and the spiritual efficacy of the business. I need now to move on from this issue, I've plenty of other projects and ideas to be getting on with. So whoever makes the final decision will do so without me. I've had enough of taking all the flack, of people ignoring the difficult choices the issue raises, and shooting at the messenger.

FEATURE 51 - Mirror

My second Tarkovsky Movie in a week,very different in style from Andrei Rublev. Mirror is such a mysteriously personal movie, more like childhood as in a folk tale, but one that has no linear story sequence. The viewer is allowed into this world of Tarkovsky's recollections, but we aren't given any help to understand it, its jumbled up, and associative, there is no guide book. This is heightened memory, filled with poetic imagery,the exagerated myths of infancy.

Like many men he has a complex relationship with his Mother, he seems to be living in a state of blame towards her. He has the same actor play both his Mother and his estranged wife. His Father is absent, he has left the family home, why, we are never told. Though I'd hazard a guess Tarkovsky believes it was his Mothers fault

This clip is an evocative dream of his Mother washing her hair, she turns briefly into something monstrous,and then the ceiling plasterwork of the whole room collapses in. The dream ends with his youthful Mother looking towards a mirror, as the camera turns from framing her to showing us the mirror reflection, we see not a youthful Mother, but the older Mother of the present day. It's so striking a sequence it's lived on in my memory since the first time I saw it twenty years ago. Powerful film making.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

FEATURE 50 - Andrei Rublev

I bought the DVD of this movie today, what a real pleasure and a joy it is to become reacquainted with it. This clip, unfortunately without subtitles, is from after the Tartar raid when the church has been ransacked and desecrated. Rublev's dead icon master Theophanes returns to debate with him about whether there's any value to painting in the face of cruelty and death. Rublev decides to take a vow of perpetual silence and ceases to paint.

Listen out for Tarkovskys use of bells at the beginning, which brilliantly lend atmosphere and poignancy to the scene without a whiff of over emotionality or manipulation. The bells will not toll again until the great bell making scene at the end of the film.

FEATURE 49 - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I'm by no means a fan of everything this New York combo do, but the 2009 album - It's Blitz is a corker. Something about the guitars reminds me of early Talking Heads/Blondie with a roughening edge of No New York stuff thrown in for good measure. Dig the dress sense, are they just ever so slightly arty or what? My current favorite track is - Heads Will Roll - so sing along - off off with his head - dance till your dead - heads will roll - heads will roll.