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On Silence

September 23, 2015

 

I find it strange that I'm making my first blog post right as I deactivate my Facebook account...having just moved to a new city.  But journeys always start with a bit of peculiarity.  Some white wizard visits your hobbit hole and compels you to adventure.  A stranger messages you on Scruff (and if you're me, you deactivate that too, because having someone hit on you over the phone is overwhelming even when they're not).

 

Or if you're me, some complication arises after a tonsillectomy, which not only forces you to reassess your life in the loss of five units of blood, but also forces you to waylay your move for a month.  No heavy lifting, but you do to move your belongings across state lines and pick up your IKEA right here, right now, because if not now, then when?

 

And then add a month of that dreaded word: "Silence."  To sit in stillness.  To sit with self, because you are not a part of the hubbub of this city, and yet not completely comfortable with all this change to write a cohesive play.  The irony, of course, is that "silence" is necessary.  Playwright Erik Ehn runs a writing retreat wherein the writers must NOT engage in any communication for a month.  No talking, no intentional body language, no visible reactions - pure monkhood.  And yet, writers in their silence have created some of the most amazing works in their careers, daring to confront themselves in their monkhoods.  In their loss of language, they form new ones on the page.

 

It's amazing what not talking for two weeks does to you.  It forces you to consider what you say.  To really listen to what others have to say without quick judgment.  Without needing to comment on particulars, which would explain my recent commitment to Facebook silence.  To simply finding a job that I'll be happy doing as opposed to a necessary misery for survival.  To sitting down and wrestling with an artistic vision: Why have I come to Chicago?  What do I have to offer this wonderful city of culture, of doing things yourself?  What belongings have I brought to belong to others?

 

What scares me about silence is that confrontation with nothingness which, by pure Buddhist standards, is the endgame.  To achieve nirvana is to become one with the universe, to surrender all sense of self, to become nothing.  Submission to nothing, to the small fragment of space one's body occupies in the vast dark matter so that one's limit tends to zero.  What survives such philosophical slicing?  History, culture, DNA, some would say, but when the powers that be come to rapture our bodies away, what use is all that?

 

The paradox, of course, is that if nothingness was pure endgame, what prevents us from a mass suicide?  Is it physical pain?  Is it the persistence that what we have in our present is better, more certain than uncertainty?  Self-importance?  The promise of a future that is better, even if we aren't going to enjoy said fruits and our successors, in turn, would incorporate into the Nothing as well?

 

I think of these things in the Silence.  I can only imagine what the brilliant Sarah Kane thought in her silences before she passed.  In that 4:48 a.m.  But in those silences, what bursts forth but a beautiful theatrical treatise on life and death and existing in this little fragment of space we occupy.

 

How we move on from this Silence - and fear of it - occupies me.  I think, if I were to begin an artistic statement, it begins with that simple loss.  And complicates itself.  And bursts forth.

 

This is where I begin.

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Ryan Oliveira

Ideas.  I'm full of them.

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