There are a Thousand Ways to
Kneel and Kiss the Ground
A dance performance based on poems by Sufi mystic Rumi and Rainer Maria Rilke and music by Arvo Pärt created for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival '09
‘Fling the emptiness out of your arms…’ (Rumi)
This performance was inspired by the death of dear friends and is dedicated in loving memory to Christian Darley (1962 - 2008), Nick Hughes (1962 - 2009) and to a great teacher, modern mystic, Manuel Schoch (1946 - 2008).
'Death is the side of life that is turned away from us and not illuminated. We must try to achieve the greatest possible consciousness of our existence, which is at home in both these immeasurable realms, and inexhaustibly nourished by both. The true form of life extends through both regions... there is neither a this-world nor another-world, but only the great unity...' (Rilke letters)
Rumi and Rilke, two mystic poets born seven centuries apart yet speak the same language in a celebration of infinity and the surrender or death of the 'ego- self'. They both pose the same question - how can you convey the union of self with emptiness in words? How can you become an instrument of silence? This is the challenge for every mystic poet and artist.
In Rilke's words:
'Song is reality. Simple for a god. But when can we be real? when does he pour the earth, the stars, into us?'
This is not about personal love:
'- learn to forget that passionate music. It will end. True singing is a different breath, about nothing. A gust inside the god. A wind.' ('Sonnets to Orpheus' I, 3)
'This singing art is sea foam. The graceful movements come from a pearl somewhere on the ocean floor... Stop the words now. Open the window in the center of your chest, and let the spirits fly in and out.' ('Where everything is music')
This remembering of who we truly are requires surrender of the controlling mind, a kind of death. The 'ego' can never step outside of time because it only exists in time. Kleist puts the paradox neatly, 'we must eat again of the Tree of Knowledge in order to fall back into the state of innocence'. In shamanic terms we must meet death and discover we are not our 'ego' to be fully alive.
Only the craziness of the sacred fool or emptiness of beginner's mind can get us there while all the experience and cleverness of rational thinking can never make the leap into the gap beyond itself. As Rumi says, 'If you could give up tricks and cleverness that would be the cleverest trick!'
In contemporary culture many people who have experienced a 'near death experience' describe an ecstatic state, an ending of the sense of separation and a deep communion and peace. There is no more fear of the end of life because there is an experience of timeless continuity. This glimpse of infinity can happen spontaneously in any context and can bring a lasting sense of awakened presence and joy.
This is medicine for the often unconscious fear of death which can make us almost hold our breath for a lifetime. Other fears attach themselves to this root and in a search for an illusory sense of security we may, in the words of Rilke, 'find ourselves trapped, as in a dream, and die there without ever waking up'. We imprison ourselves in a security cell and create distractions from our fear of freedom.
Rumi's advice: 'Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape'.
Rilke was passionate about the need to realize our true freedom and celebrate life and death as a unity:
'More and more in my life and in my work I am guided by the effort to correct our old repressions, which have removed and gradually estranged from us the mysteries out of whose abundance our lives might become truly infinite. It is true that these mysteries are dreadful... Whoever does not, sometime or other, give his full consent, his full and joyous consent, to the dreadfulness of life, can never take possession of the unutterable abundance and power of our existence; can only walk on its edge, and one day, when the judgement is given, will have been neither alive nor dead...' (Rilke letters)
‘This place is a dream.
Only a sleeper considers it real.
Then death comes like dawn,
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought was your grief’. (Rumi)
~Special thanks to Rohan Yates for inspirational lighting design~