Blood, Sweat and Beer
One of the most remarkable experiences I ever had happened during my not so mentioned “spiritualist period” — a part of my life which I intimately deny, but must admit —, a sort of extreme group therapy, a “thing” I cannot name, from which I’ve learned to detect certain sensations I’ll never be able to get rid of. That “thing” was part of the famous “marathons” I used to attend, once a month, in a ranch in Petropolis, Brazil, where our group gathered “to search for our deep selves.” The main goal was “to take us out of our minds,” a place I insist on staying until today, despite all my efforts against it. My nickname at the time, pejorative, of course, was “brain.”
We spent two or three days gathered in a room, and weren’t allowed to leave. We were also prevented from eating or sleeping, and could only drink beer, the options being to give up or get crazy, what somehow allowed us to reach a privileged place, where only our most primitive impetus persisted: Know thyself.
One of the “exercises” dealt with our internal violence; all of us, even if we don’t admit it, have that “dark” side, seek, and ye shall find. One of these days, I heard someone saying on TV that humans feel a sort of satisfaction whenever they act violently — violence gets you high, simple as that.
Back to the “group therapy:” A person would be standing still and the others would say or do whatever they pleased, all censorship consumed by the wakefulness and the beer. First in line, there was this sweet boy, a sort of mascot — the youngest person there and the son of the ranch’s owner —, ready to share his love, weren’t we all. Ironically, everyone there was searching for a life-affirming form of love, no matter how much they denied it.
Facing one of our dearest friends, the boy reacted violently, pushed her down, something like that… and, shortly after, came to his senses, I mean, instantly recovered his humanity, his good feelings, and immediately regretted it. Deeply. He was a boy. He wasn’t a criminal.
I believe he still regrets it. He truly felt a sort of unexplainable, deep pain, that all of us shared — I insist, he wasn’t either a criminal or a radical, his mind was simply pushed to the irrational, animal, experimental. He had exceeded his own limits, and the exercise was over.
Those were the good times, when violence was merely “staged.”
Five thirty pm. A sunny day. I’ve been feeling tired, overworked, not sleeping well. I stopped working earlier than usual, dressed up and went to the theater, in downtown Greenville. We had tickets for the Pilobolus, a dance group I’ve already seen performing in Rio de Janeiro, considering that, after all, I was “born with a silver spoon in my mouth,” raised in touch with international culture… as part of the “elite,” if you know what I mean, something I’ll carry with me forever.
I left my world to step into a radically different one. We went to an open-air pub to have a drink before the show; I observed the movement in the streets of Greenville, small talk, colorful dresses, a breeze blowing, new leaves on the trees. Spring. Another world, as I said. Now and then, a change of scenery is good for you.
The presentation started, and it was awesome, exactly as I expected; but before the intermission, we had the chance to watch a brand new piece, not yet named, a sneak preview.
The stage is black. In the center, a silver door divides the world in two.
The world of art, contemplative, a woman sitting on the doorstep; from the inside comes Callas with “Casta Diva,” a love story long dreamed of, a foreseen encounter. I’m immediately taken, transported to the idyllic mountain view from the enchanting house we haven’t started to build. I’m not aware of any other world but this. I relax. I feel joy.
But the idyllic moment does not last long. A thunder is heard, a soundtrack hurricane takes us along. The door is opened with violence. Three ferocious men suddenly break in and rip the lovers apart, transforming “Casta Diva” into an imposing noise, far from chaste, blood, sweat, nowhere to hide; we struggle to find a trace of human kindness, our souls brutally abducted while our bodies rest still on the soft velvet of a theater seat. Tense. Erect.
Moments of calmness and extreme violence keep alternating, intermittently lighted until the final scene returns to the beginning. Woman, doorstep, silence. Loneliness. We’re puppets in other people’s destiny, mercilessly manipulated, no chance to hide. It takes us, no prior consent, beyond the once valued quietness; violence hits us all in this new era.
And cut. Intermission. A deep breath.
During the last fifteen minutes, we had been taken on a wretched journey, out of our daily pretense of being in total control.
That’s what art is. Drugs are no longer needed.
The amazing Pilobolus performance perfectly represents the dichotomy we’ve been facing: There’s no place in this world in which we can hide from the rest of the world. The only option, of course, is to turn off the computer, to sit silently on that enchanting, quiet porch contemplating the Blue Ridge Mountains in our near future, leaving behind the violence of the herd under the outdated spell of Bellini’s “Casta Diva.”
There’s no chastity left in this all-connected world.
This way, I keep moving, abiding the whole world turbulence inside my own guts, war, sweat, shrapnel; debris of a violated and overlooked humanity, which will not let me out. I can’t simply ignore it, my blood secretly boiling under a black burqa in which I hide, my own darkest shadow acted out in that metastatic tumor that has spread through the earth, from where all the beauty, the art, the humanity that makes us human was sucked down, our essence stolen, decapitated. The price to get it back, our only possible salvation, is solemnly ignored by the radicals, whose national redemption is not on the other side of the door, but on the other side of life.
Have a nice Sunday!