Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

25 August 2010

Spirit

I've been telling people I had a very spiritual summer. I get a lot of grins from people when I say this. I do not intend this framing of my summer as a jocular one, but, rather, as an honest description of how I experienced the several weeks between May 1st and August 15th of this year.

On May 31st I presided over the wedding of two of my dearest friends. The wedding was attended by a large number of people whom I love more than I can say. This wedding, at the request of the bride and groom, included no mention of "god." It was, nevertheless, an intense experience of the spirit: the spirit of place as well as the spirit of community. The sacred permeated the ceremony. I'd try to tell you what this spirit felt like, but language cannot really approach the description of such a feeling.

In Virginia, where I worked at the end of June and the beginning of July, I spent time with a company of people who work together regularly and ritually on an annual basis, who have established a community and a way of working together. I was a guest there, but welcomed. The company itself, Endstation, is a troupe that is dedicated to the sacredness of space. Each season they perform a show at a different site on campus, a site that then infuses its own power into the performance. The site of a performance is de facto a holy site, invested as it is with the ritual coming-together of audience and performers for the sake of play and pleasure. But the sacred spaces at Endstation assert a power over the performances themselves, the sites creating the performances as much as the performances make the sites sacred.

My trip to Endstation also meant that I would be two hours away from my friend Gregory, whose poetry I have posted on this blog on numerous occasions. I hadn't seen Greg in three years, since he left Florida for Virginia. The two of us spent an amazing afternoon together in a city strange to both of us, and we walked the entirety of downtown Roanoke, exchanging stories, mocking each other's choices, and generally providing encouragement and support.

My reading this summer has been in Critical Race Theory, Violence Theory, and the Parisian Avant-garde. As I sat in solitude in Virginia contemplating the disappearance of Julien Torma in the century previous, I scribbled in my notes that:

To confront the question of suicide is to confront the question of art, of art's ability to make meaning for our lives and art's power to give value to culture, to history. Those who commit suicide as art find the courage to take this inquiry still further, or perhaps to aver that even this question is itself without meaning.
As I returned to California later in the summer, the past came alive again. A professor of mine from undergrad died suddenly, and memories came flooding back. I, quite unexpectedly, spent some time with several people I hadn't seen in many years, people who are close to my heart, but whom I never see. These encounters felt very spiritual to me, and feel so now, as though there is a message here, a kind of connectivity across time and across distances. That we carry memories and affection in our hearts, though our work has taken us far from our places of departure and far from our original life-goals.

And then there is the even stranger fact that my trip to California was coincident almost to the day with a friend's visit from China. Spending time with him also meant spending time with people whom I had not seen in over thirteen years. When I got back home to Tallahassee I wrote:

How funny it is that the whole world turns back on itself! The past comes back to meet us in beautiful ways; people we think we don't know any longer turn out to be closer than ever; a heart we think is broken beats in the chest with brand new life.
And this summer I set foot in a yoga studio for the first time in many many years. I do yoga by myself quite frequently, but the sweat and the breath in the studio is a completely different experience of spirit (literally: breath).

There are many more convergences that have colored my summer of the spirit, but I will share just one more. My time in Virginia was marked, particularly by the time I got to spend with my friend Michael, about whom I do not have enough good things to say. Since I have returned to Tallahassee, he and a friend have begun reading Joyce's Ulysses together so that they can talk through it without having to do so alone. I wanted to read the book with him, but, alas, I have comprehensive exams coming up and simply haven't the time. Yesterday Michael and I spoke briefly because he had just finished part one of the book. But again, I am not reading the book with him, and am not really on the journey. This morning, however, I was reading N. Scott Momaday's The Man Made of Words, part of my Race Theory comp list. The following passage leapt out at me from the page:

I belong in the place of my departure, says Odysseus, and I belong in the place that is my destination.
Sometimes even though paths appear to diverge and take us far afield of one another, there are times when it becomes beautifully clear that the journey we are on is the same journey.