Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow day!

I almost feel like a little kid again. Today was going to be a day of white-knuckle driving, but it has miraculously turned into a cozy indoor day during which I find myself with time to write a blog post while I sip on a gigantic cup of coffee and nibble on a peanut butter brownie.

The logical activity for me to embark upon today is preparation for the imminent move, but packing boxes may have to be postponed, as the boxes in question are to be found in the trunk of my car, which would require actually going outside and subjecting myself to the blowing snow and howling wind. Alright, I'm exaggerating...it's not that bad here, but over Hamilton way, my ultimate destination most days of the week, is a different story: they have been absolutely pounded with snow, hence my current state of inertia.

I look at this move as a great opportunity to reduce personal inventory, or as Ian Brown so unmercilessly called it in last weekend's Globe & Mail manifesto, culling. A harsh harsh word for an activity already fraught with anxiety and misgivings, especially for a person that can attach sentimental value to almost anything (that old concert ticket stub conjures up such fond memories!). I will make something clear at the outset, however: no books shall be harmed in the process. Culling of books is strictly forbidden. Every volume that resides with me in this humble abode shall travel with me to the next space. What gets culled is the stuff that causes the clutter, like all the amassed papers and magazines and otherwise useless nothings that serve no real purpose other than to occupy space and collect dust. That is what I aim to eliminate today.

Admittedly, it is a strange approach to take in that I am moving from a smaller space to a larger space. I could approach it in a different way, such that all my worldly possessions and then some could come along with me, but why carry so many useless tchotchkes along when all they will do is sit idly until it is time for them to be moved again further down the line. Cull them then, cull them all!

Not so easily done. I am reminded often of the woman I chatted with over breakfast in an oceanside inn in Newport, Oregon a few years back. She was a self-professed ruthless lawyer until she went on a pilgrimage to Macchu Picchu, and it subsequently changed her life. She quit her job and dropped most of her possessions and adopted the credo 'reduce and simplify'. I listened to her story and was mostly amused by her new-agey flakiness, but I still think about the reducing and simplifying idea all the time. Not to the monastic extent of eliminating most everything I own, but to an extent whereby I transcend my tendency toward materialism and become satisfied with the select few possessions that I consider essential to my small world life: books and bookmarks, pens and notebooks, computer and two or three accessories thereof, blankets and sheets and pillowcases, some clothing and some shoes, plus the most basic of worldly implements. That's all.

Oh, and furniture of course. A couple of new pieces would be lovely for the new place. Perhaps a teak wall unit and a Barcelona chair. But I swear that will be all.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The dervish, she whirls

She turns and she turns and she turns. She stays mostly in one spot but at the same time goes oh so far away. Where she goes is known only to her and perhaps the others that turn next to her or not next to her. I suspect I will never know the place where she goes. It is not mine to know. A lot of faith and meditation and singlemindedness may allow for such a journey but it would only be the beginning. I am not sure that I even want to go there: I am only sure that I know she is happier no place else. That is the draw.

I am speaking of Mira Burke, a modern day dervish that some have called avant garde in her approach to the ancient practice. Her turning evokes all that she feels as she cyclically prays, because not only does she turn and turn and turn: her body wrenches with perpetual moments of true feeling as she does so, thereby changing an onlooker's response from the expected hypnotic transcendence to one of shared knowledge, shared understanding, shared feeling, albeit fleeting. So so fleeting.

The transcendence is only intensified by the accompaniment of Sufi-inspired electronic sampling provided by the Turkish-Canadian composer Mercan Dede. He and his Secret Tribe lull both the dervish and the onlookers into an altered state of consciousness by pairing electronic beats with the more traditional sounds of the drum, the clarinet, the kanun, and the ney. Dede rivals the dervish in his ability to captivate the audience [whether he is clanging his tiny cymbals or manipulating his mixing board or simply just moving to the music], but he is also in complete harmony with her. He has also been called a modern day dervish, so perhaps he goes to the same place as she does when he turns the music on his table. Perhaps they go together, leaving only their bodies behind. The closing of one's eyes renders their physicality inconsequential, leaving only the music, the haunting, beating, infiltrating music. But then the whirling would go unseen. The visual and the aural must go hand in hand.

All of this begins to fade as soon as one ventures from the dimly lit warmth of Trinity St. Paul's Church, into the biting cold of the unforgiving midwinter night. It fades a little further as you run to catch the streetcar to avoid waiting untold lengths of time for the next one to come screeching through the night. There are no dervishes on board, and if there were, they would be regarded with much disdain, because any overt sign of spiritual devotion is generally frowned upon in the public transit system. Of course, it is possible to go to a different place, that is to say, it is possible to transcend the here and the now by simply staring straight ahead into oblivion, or better yet, at a wall. No whirling necessary.


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