Move Toward Wholeness [on Two Artists Tuesday]

When I look at the bowl of green tomatoes, each plucked from the vine before we pulled the plants from their pots, still moving toward red ripeness, I think of Joe. He was fond of saying, “Life moves in the direction of wholeness.” It’s important to note that his fond phrase included nothing about outcomes. Joe was particular and knew that life is movement and not arrival.

I am revisiting the word ‘rehearsal’ these days only this version of rehearsal is not on the stage with creative minds. It is over Zoom with decidedly analytical minds. Actors in rehearsal halls move through a process of exploration that leads to specific choices. The goal, if there is one, is to embody a state of moving presence within a story. The analytic mind comes with a template overlay that is placed atop the experience before it actually occurs. The language reveals all: content items. Telemetry. The mathematics of movement. Rehearsal is predicated on precision.

As I’ve probably written ad nauseam, these minds are not in opposition. They are complimentary. Freedom of artistic expression comes from years of study of technique. The path to mastery winds through repetition and constraint. Saying more with less comes after a lifetime of saying less with more. The creative mind is one step closer to the senses. The analytic mind applies language, gives voice, to the experience.

Many years ago I participated in a workshop with an actor/director of Noh Theatre. The process was strict, exacting. The movements precise. There was no room for error. We, the participants in the workshop, knew we’d never achieve proficiency since it takes years and years of rehearsal to perform even the simplest of symbolic gestures. No one sings opera in a day. We did our best and failed and failed and failed. That was the point. That is always the point. Each failure is actually an exercise of muscle memory. The body learns. The mind is impatient. Rehearsal is rarely about the mind, despite what the mind insists. At the end of the day, our workshop leader gave a short demonstration of his art form. His ease of movement, born from years of repetition within constraint, was breathtaking. He was free.

Many years later I was helping John in his wood shop. He was a master wood worker. I watched him look over his lumber, preparing to build a cabinet. He ran his hand over the wood, feeling his way into his project. “Ah,” he said, laying his hand on a piece of cherry wood. “This is it.” John was like the Noh actor.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, “it just feels right.” Then he smiled and added, “Plus, I’ve built a lot of crap.”

Life, moving toward wholeness.

read Kerri’s blog post about TOMATOES

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