Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Love? Si, se puede! (part 1)

Towards the end of his last lecture, my close friend, comrade and colleague, the late Ilan Gur Ze’ev, said:

“I claim that we must educate our young and ourselves
to transgress borders
to live in the fissures
in transition.

This is impossible without the existence of Eros.

Every worthy human encounter must be infused with the love of life, with love. Of course it is possible to direct the love of life in endless directions. After all, fascism, too, spoke of love.

But, I am speaking about love of life with responsibility for others,
with responsibility for strengthening one another,
and as a partner neither to self-reproduction nor as acceptance  of the existing order;
rather as an understanding that the existing order and oneself, as I am,
are the starting points for realization of love.“

I begin by noting the form of the lecture, the way it has been transcribed for us.  Did Ilan use this ‘poetic’ form, this verse style when he composed the lecture?  Did he compose it,  or did he speak straight into the microphone from his heart?  Of course, this is an empirical question which I could ask Ariel Kizel, Ilan’s Haifa University colleague who shared the lecture with me, which is posted on his blog that I have linked here, as well as in my first post in memory of Ilan, below.  But I doubt I will ask such an empirical question, not during this period of mourning, perhaps never.   Anyway, for those of us who knew Ilan, he spoke, always, poetically, straight from the heart.   Whether or not such words must appear on the page in verse form is besides the point. 

Or is it?  Of course, it isn’t, and that’s why I am stressing this issue, because I have become so attentive to form, to the way things appear in the world, and in writing this very sentence I am flashing to Arendt and Heidegger, who have taught me so much about phenomenology, about the importance of appearance, and of remaining attentive to the way things appear, both to us, and on their own. I have, mostly through Arendt, and then, perhaps through Foucault and his work on cura sui (care of the self), also been focusing on the performative character of the self, especially of those involved in educational practice, the performance of the teacher and learner.   It’s not just as a result of thinking about this whole business of ‘performativity,’ which is one of the terms that is bandied about in the theory world, the kind of word that takes on a life of Its own, and, as with this word, becomes a pejorative.  That is, it’s  not just because I want to engage in an Arendtian reversal of a trope, and reclaim ‘performance’ from ‘performativity,’ which has become one of those clichés that Arendt warned us about, the ones that take shape when communication has become idle chatter, as Heidegger might say, and thoughtlessness rises from domains ostensibly organized around deep thinking, scholarship and research.   I do want to reclaim ‘performance’ from ‘performativity’ and focus my interest in form on the way that we appear to one another in the educational domains, in the learning sphere.   I’m inclined to practice the kind of performance that is jazz like, that is improvisational, like the music of Coltrane, or Coleman (see link below to his ‘Free Jazz’), and in writing this I recall being in Madrid and seeing an interview of Jacque Derrida on Spanish tv, where he recalled being called on stage by Coleman to perform….what did Derrida call it?  He didn’t find the words for it…this was the fascinating thing about his recollection of his performance.   He was caught off guard, and, recalled that he had no words, at first.   I wonder if there is a recording of that moment some where?   Derrida coming on stage during an Ornette Coleman show!!   Let’s find that and study it, and think about what’s happening in that moment.  What does that performance reveal to us?  What does it show us when we think about it in terms of a ‘teaching’ moment?   I’m most interested in the ‘moment,’ the temporality that has opened up during that performance.  That is, I’m assuming that a special kind of time, an instance of kairos, is occurring when that performance is happening.  Indeed, this kind of time, this special moment, that breaks the flow of ‘everyday life,’ the chronological, allows for this performance to happen.

Where does this time arrive from?  How do we locate kairos, how do we anticipate its appearance, and how do we welcome its arrival?   Straight from the heart?  With love?   I believe this is a plausible way to approach these questions.

Ilan speaks of a ‘realization of love.”  He tells us that the ‘existing order and oneself’ are starting points for this realization.  I take him, perhaps, to be saying that love appears with the manner in which we attend to what appears to us.   The ‘things of the world’ (you, me, everyone and everything), are the starting point.  The questions is:  how does one respond to these ‘things’ that appear to us?  It’s all about response-ability, our ability to respond, and, then, the quality and character of our response.   Love appears from these responses, from the care, the attentiveness we show towards that which reveals itself.   Does it begin with cura sui, with care for self, and does it unfold in self-overcoming, as Nietzsche insisted, in overcoming the ‘self’ and moving towards the other, towards you, everyone and everything?   Yes, I believe, for now, I’ll conjecture that like the practicing that one takes up in one’s one time, doing the rudiments, the scales, repeating over and over the rhythms and melodies that will form the basis of the improvisation.   Cura sui, thinking, dwelling with oneself, is the preparatory practice that prepares one to move into the time of possibility, to jam with others in kairos.  And this can happen, with others, too, during rehearsals.  But, even then, the coming together with others presumes a prior practicing and preparation, an anticipation of the event of this coming together.  

The first borders we must transgress are those that we perceive in our ‘homes,’ in those spaces where find the most ‘comfort,’ not to destroy, or disrupt this space, but to challenge ourselves, first and foremost, in those spaces, to perceive the novel, the new.   Perhaps ‘transgress’ is too strong a word, here, to describe the small ways we ‘practice’ and ‘rehearse’ (re-hear?) in our homes, in our studios, in our hearts.  Yes, it’s too strong a word, and, I’ll need to return to this in my next post, where I want to reflect on my encounter this week, for the first, time, with the performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Pena. 

Ilan tells us he is speaking of ‘love of life with responsibility for others,’ and I’m reminded of the saying of ‘Yes!’, the declaration of affirmation that always precedes the acting of creating, making, building.  And I end, where I intend to begin in my next post:  si, se peude!

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