Who is a Human Being in Time’s Play?
Who is asleep, who is awake, in our busy business life, where we hope to rediscover a lost paradise?
Time’s play in our human existence is present in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake words: “The silent cock shall crow at last. The west shall shake the east awake. Walk while ye have the night for morn, lightbreakfastbringer morroweth whereon every past shall full fost sleep. Amain.”
The French poet Saint-John Perse, who was familiar with Joyce’s work, writes in his epic poem “Vents” (Winds): “... Mais c’est de l’homme qu’il s’agit! Et de l’homme lui-même quand donc sera-t-il question? Quelqu’un au monde élèvera-t-il la voix?” (“But it is Man that matters! And when will there be talk of Man himself? Shall anybody in the world raise his voice?”)
Man has not yet been properly born. Man is still an unfulfilled reality in the history of Time’s creation. His inventions and discoveries are not altogether disastrous, but on the whole far from a higher dignity that could help the universe to fulfil itself.
Time passes. We are now at the end of an old era and at the same time at the beginning of a new one. The spirit of the old worn-out time is collapsing and will soon become a rubbish-heap or a graveyard, a memory for coming generations to ponder at.
James Joyce writes in his famous book “Finnegans Wake”, whose female and male protagonists are called ALP (Anna Livia Plurabelle) and HCE (Here Comes Everybody): “His door always open. For a newera’s day.” The female part, ALP, is a representative of the flow of time and also symbolizing the river Liffey, Dublin’s river, and the “riverrun” of mankind. The last words (on page 628 of the book) are: “A way a lone a last a loved a long the”, and the first word of the book is: “riverrun”.
If the old human era has failed, then will the new era succeed in repairing the mistakes that have been going on since the beginning of our history? Man’s history did, according to legends and myths, start when the Gods left the earth and left Man to go on in their footsteps. Pyramids have been created in many places, and a lot of works have explained why and when these buildings were built. Did the builders know and use an energy and a technique we so far don’t understand, or at least very few have discovered? Perhaps inventors like Nikola Tesla and Viktor Schauberger knew.
Of course some inspired poets have opened secret doors with the key of knowledge. But their works have not yet been able to open the senses and the hearts of everyday man, who is lost in his struggle for survival.
Albert Camus, who recieved the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, was quite aware of our slave mentality that fails to appreciate the force behind the miracles of Mother Nature. He said that in ancient Greece there were not only slaves, but also free men who could develop a free creative thinking without the burden of economic pressure on their backs. Nowadays we may think that all are free and that nobody is a slave. But what happens if you cannot pay your rent, your food, your bills ...? If you cannot pay you are a criminal. And who pays someone who prefers to serve a free world and not a political and economic imbecility? Are you willing to give me a piece of bread if you find me starving in a gutter, a piece of a loaf, a piece of a room, a piece of the rent, some clothes, a pair of shoes ...?
The world we see exists. But does it exist? Our life is an adventure, and we are explorers trying to understand why we are here. But are we here? We are skiing, we can see the snow in the palms of our hands. We admire the Alps and the pine trees. We love our life in the sun. But do we love? And what kind of life is this experience? A well written love story can be a bestseller. Some stories are sad and some are happy. But are we really able to love our own life? If we can see our whole life and all existence as a time without end and without beginning, there might be a possibility for us to be in harmony with Nature without hurting it. Listen to Vivaldi’s “Gloria”, Varèse’s “Deserts”, or John Adams’ “Harmonium” ... and live in the spirit of this music! Read what T.S. Eliot writes about the Light Invisible within our souls, without forgetting about the poisons, the nuclear threat and other nightmares everybody hears about in the media!
In January 2013 I talked to James Knowlson, who is the author of wellknown books on Samuel Beckett. We discussed the cultural situation in Europe and in the world. Is there any free expression going on? Or are all arts ruled by devoted profiteers? James Knowlson said: “Imagination Dead Imagine”. He quoted one of Beckett’s book titles. This book (a very short text) starts with the words: “No trace anywhere of life, you say, pah, no difficulty there, imagination not dead yet, yes, dead, good, imagination dead imagine.” “Happy Days Festivals”, celebrations of Beckett’s works, are taking place in Ireland. Arts festivals are happening everywhere. But who are ruling these festivals, and in what interest? Is there any real free creative imagination behind it all? Probably not. Or maybe there is a free imagination in the gutter, in the cellars, in the prisons ...? Or in some dark corner of a flat where somebody is writing words that are difficult to publish because of their free spirit?
The old way of ruling the world, all honourable management: the gigantic buildings, the bank palaces, supermarkets, and other power manifestations, are trying to convince us that they are representing the true face of the world. But where do you find a living spirit and a living imagination behind all these faces, all these surfaces?
Deborah Warner has staged “Happy Days” by Samuel Beckett at the ancient Greek theatre in Epidaurus. Winnie, the progatonist, who is talking and talking and searching in her handbag to pass the time, is on this old stage almost altogether buried in a rubbish-heap containing civilized items. The Beckett Estate, who are in charge of the rights to Beckett’s works, did like this interpretation.
We are not altogether choked. At least not all of us. Who is not choking? Who is not trying to choke the free imagination when it turns up? A little flower, a small snowdrop, can be seen one day in the month of March. And suddenly the severe winter comes back. Don’t think you are free to create your own life. Everywhere there are rules and rulers forcing man to act and react like obedient school children.
“Behold the Man!” But where is Man? We know the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension. But what and where is the resurrected Man? After the Resurrection two men in shining garments said to the women who found the sepulchre empty: “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” Where is a man without limits, a human being who creates his own world?
In Beckett’s novel “The Unnamable” you can read: “The galley-man, bound for the Pillars of Hercules, who drops his sweep under cover of night and crawls between the thwarts, towards the rising sun, unseen by the guard, praying for storm.” Are we all galley-men who are more or less prisoners, watched by guards and directed by the money-bags who know the best way to strangle us? But maybe a few of us can be loosened from the chains and, under cover of night, pray for storm? In his novel “Dune” Frank Herbert writes: “A storm is coming. Our storm. And when it arrives it will shake the universe.” Some of us may have had a dream that at least an inner storm, a storm of the spirit, will come and change all black spectacles on planet Earth.
The human body itself can be considered a prison, but it is also a power station and a stage for innumerable miracles. At the end of the story of the human body there is a possibility that somebody will appear. Look ahead where you are in a dark tunnel, and see a light opening at a far distance! Place yourself in this light and look back at the dark figure you are in the dark tunnel! What is the meaning of this tunnel, the history of man? And how many millions of years must it last before it ends?
Man’s problems: wars, revenge, judgements, hate, love, poverty, wealth, competition ... are futile nonsense if you listen to the empty roar of the universe. But on this small stage, our life on a globe, a spaceship we are not always able to love, we never finish to search for answers. Why am I here? Look at the famous painting “The Triumph of Death” by Bruegel: the dead and the living, the greed for money, the waste land, death on a hill of gallows ... and the chapel where someone is trying to convince people to see and meet the Resurrected One.
All people, all human beings, are relatives. Even the lakes, the rivers, the trees, the animals ... are our cousins, brothers, mothers, and sisters. The abusing and refusing mentality belongs to the dead. Don’t seek the living among the dead!
Beyond the civilized voices you find the voice of the elements of Nature. If you listen to the sounds in the composition “Time Zero. Bells in the Wind” you can hear the winds and the bells speak and how the human voices mingle with the voices of the winds. The storm has many voices, the sea ... Even behind our languages there are voices, sometimes silent whisperings, hard to discern. Silence itself is a voice ... and in the midst of it all: a voice beyond all voices, the voice of creation. Can you see man’s part in an ongoing creation? Is it a role where the free spirit talks and is shaping a world we so far have not been able to create? Can this be the end of the great failure: warlike man’s presence on planet Earth.
Computers, smartphones, iPads ... Will the new equipment we master help us to understand what our imagination can do? Political blindness, religious fanaticism, commercial mindlessness ... are ruling components in a play without an enlightened director. One day perhaps the strongest buildings may become ruins. We have been builders since the beginning of history. We have shaped pyramids, but not equality and justice on our spaceship called Earth. In Beckett’s book “Lessness” you can read the following words: “All sides endlessness earth sky as one no sound no stir.”
In “Time Zero. Bells in the Wind” there are still stirrings. The human voice has something to say. The bells from different parts of the world talk. The world-cry is penetrating the heart of our human existence. And when the human voices have had their say, you can hear how the winds are talking with a human voice. Everywhere you can feel the presence of Time Zero. It is an opening into another world. From one world to another. If we look into this opening, maybe we can see an empty space or an empty stage. The play must go on. Man, the human being, has not yet been fully created or properly born. And imagination is a gift we use and misuse. From where is it coming? From God or from the Gods? Are we all gods? Yes, according to the gospel of John: We are. Look at the stage, the empty Time Zero stage has no beginning and no end. Fill it with spirit, and see how an endless life-giving imagination is the director of the play in this Kingdom of Man. Breathe. Hold your breath. Inspire. Expire ...
Time, the riverrun in Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake”, is a female force called ALP (Anna Livia Plurabelle). “Anna was. Livia is. Plurabelle’s to be.” The old time, the old sun, is now in many people’s mind already a past history. Time was. Time is ... Time Plays.
“Finnegans Wake” by James Joyce was first published by Faber & Faber in 1939. It is a book where many languages form a new language. Good guidebooks to this work are e.g. “Our Exagmination round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress” by Samuel Beckett and others (Faber & Faber, 1936/1961) and “A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake” by Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson (Faber & Faber, 1947). “Time Zero. Bells in the Wind” belongs to the series of compositions called “Transformational Voices”. The other titles in this CD series by Percival are: “Play Time Music”, “Jungle Voices”, and “Eternal Voices”. “Time Plays” by Percival is a book published in 1999/2000 by Art Distribution. See www.artdistribution.se and www.percival.nu