Thursday, December 03, 2009

There's a meditation group that meets in a church on Tuesday lunchtimes.
We meditate sitting, walking, and eating in silence together.
And there's a space for sharing what happens.
The whole thing is inspired by the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh and made possible by the devoted work of a lovely man, Jon Bagust, who organises it.

I love being there, but the intensity of the last weeks and months has hardly made it possible.

I was there the day before yesterday. I was at a meeting and arrived a little late, just after it had begun.

The silence and the peacefulness in the church was so palpable and so strongly in contrast with my curent state of mind it was as if it hit me like a blow.

If its appropriate to use such a violent image to describe so quiet and yet so powerful a thing.

The reading spoke of the need to bring joy into the world. I thought that seemed a bit ambitious for what I try to do in my work; but at least i always try to give pleasure and inspire a smile.

But then I became aware of how much anger and hatred my play about Jesus has inspired. How hard not to get caught up in it. How the words we speak and the actions we do can have results that are totally opposed to our conscious wishes and intentions.

And painfully aware of how much this fills me with turmoil.

Turmoil that somehow needs to be assimililated and resolved.

My companions said some very sweet and supportive things; and I seem to have plunged right back into the fray.

I've been so dismayed that the evangelical groups who have noticed my work and been most vocal in the world-wide opposition to it are also almost certainly funding the Christian movements in Ugnada promoting the vile bill to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death.

Knowing this makes me all the more determined to try to use my art as best I can to resist.

A first step has to get help from people who know the business. So yesterday I travelled to Glasgow to see an independent producer to see what can be done.

On the train on the way there i was working on the final draft of my radio adaptation of "La Princesse de Cleves". it was such a pleasure, this fine tuning. Over the years I have built up so many skills, I know precisely what I am doing, and I feel comfortable and at home there.

I enjoyed the meeting in many ways, and learnt so mjuch from it. Not least how far such encounters take me from my comfort zone, into a new world where i feel painfully ignorant.

Then i remembered: soon after my mother died i was sent to a new boarding school. It was a terrifying place. Bullying was institutionalised and systematiclly used as a method of social control.

It was crucially important to "fit in".

I didn't, of course.

Early on in my second term there I said or did something wrong and was sentenced to "being sent to Coventry". So for the next ten weeks no-one spoke to me, and everyone acted as if i didn't exist.

I suffered so intensely at that time. In the midst of my fear and my shame, a particular torment was that I couldn't even be certain of what i had said or done that had caused this to happen to me. That made it all worse, somehow: it made my whole being in the world seem doubly shameful and embarrassing and unacceptable.

It was soon after that that some bigger boys got me involved in acting: and it was in the rehearsal room that for the very first time I felt myself totally at home.

Playing girls' parts. And how sad that the pleasure that gave me should have then plunged me again into the deepest fear and shame. A hideous and so easily avoidable cycle of suffering that I am still struggling to escape from.

All that happened 45 years ago: but I can still so intensely feel it.

How strange that the huge issues the Jesus play involves, the global struggle between repression and liberation, should somehow also, and so intimately, be bound up with so individual a trauma.

How tempting to retreat back into the safety of words.

But it's not enough.

i suddenly think of lines from "Losing Venice":

The clouds gather. The storm is rising.
And it will come. Nothing can stop it.
We know. We laugh when we can;
We live, as we must.
Fear eats away our hearts. Will it spare us,
We wonder, will it spare or children?
Yet what can we do? Tear down our city?
Label the stones and move them, stone by stone,
Rebuild them on the higher ground?
All our energy is taken up with living.
Besides, is there any mountain high enough
to hide us,
Is there depth enough in any cave?
I doubt it. Crying is easy.
Laughter requires a little more strength.

I wrote that in 1985.
Somehow I saw what was coming.
I was right.


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