Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Twilights of Tears

"I can't keep holding on to what you got, when all you got is hurt...we get to carry each other, carry each other...One..." - U2.

The other day I was in my apartment busily meditating over how best to live the rest of my life and trying to decide upon the best idea on how to do church and architecture (the two things that take up most of my time). My oh-so-peaceful meditation was violently inturrupted by a loud crash outside my apartment, accompanied by the shaking of my exterior wall that faces the public walkway, quickly followed by the recognizable howling and screaming cries of the cute little seven year old girl who lives across the exterior California "hall." I walked outside to try to console her. I think it helped - a little. She continued to cry, albeit a little less violently, and went into her apartment with her older brother.

Fresh in my mind was the famous film I had watched the previous night, Andrei Rublev, by the famous film maker Andrei Tarkovsky. From my experience with that film, which had brought surprsing tears that I hadn't experienced in some time, I could sort of identify with the little girl. With the moving culminating scene that comes at the end of that film fresh in my mind, I for the first time in longer than I can remember soon thereafter recieved from above a "creative" idea for an iconic painting.

The three plus hours of Andrei Rublev contains many heartwrenching reminders of the suffereings of the world and one's self. You could characterize the entirety of the film as a kind of colorful dirge that slowly weaves your soul into a profound sympathizing with the suffering in the world and, and, in a mystical out of body kind of way, the suffering in that very soul that you occupy. The film, although it appears empirically to be filmed in black and white, is filled throughout with much color. The colors under the suffering aren't revealed, however, until the end. The Light of the icon and the accompanying choratic voices that are the culmination of the film point us to the coming goodness that lay at the heart of where it all began.

And I’m not just being all spiritual and crap, either. The “color” in the film starts with the image of a right side up smiley face on the ass of an up side down jester. After vicariously experiencing what seems like all the varieties of sufferings and sin in the world, by the end of the film you realize that the coloring had already begun before you ever saw the jester…in the relationships between the three monks in the opening scene. Some of the sins in the film are committed by those very monks, some in relation to each other.

One of the revealing episodes of the film involves a young man's coming of age by leading an entire village's quest to make a huge bell to adorn the local sanctuary. He gets the commission from the great prince of the land on account of his dead father's history and knowledge of making bells. When the prince's messengers come through the destitute and drought-emptied town looking for a bell maker, the lonesome and hungry boy claims to have had the "secret" of bell making whispered in his ear just before his father's death. Throughout the construction of the bell, however, the tension mounts in the boy and his relatioships with his workers and his bell. Eventually, the great weight of the bell is lifted to the sky, and you are lightly surprised and deeply moved when you even get hear the coloring of the film in the sound of the bell and then soon thereafter in the tears of its maker. Interestingly, he was crying because he was angry at his dead father for not having imparted upon his beloved son the secret to the family craft.

So finally, after experiencing the pain of a mutilated and imprisoned jester, a raped, ravaged and destroyed village, a guilty and shamed monk whose guilt and shame were produced by his own greed and jealousy (with which one can readily identify), and the guilty sufferings of St. Andrew (that's Andrei Rublev) through his sixteen years of self imposed silence to expiate his sins, among which were the murder of a murderous soldier, you get to expereince the cathartic words of "father" Andrei when he finally decides to break the sixteen year vow of silence by consoling the violent tears of the young boy who has just victoriously aquired his manhood by making a bell ring true.

It was the great injustice of the world that brought St. Andrew's great Silence. An entire village raped, pillaged and murdered - an event in which Andrei was one of two survivors - brings us and Andrei face to face with our great suffering. I react with busily meditating on how to fix the injustice and place myself in a better world. Andrei reacts with much more nobility and breadth of vision. He becomes Silent. When, after witnessing such human corruption, he speaks some of his final words before his vow by saying, "I have nothing more to say to the people of the world," I quietly thought to myself, "I can identify with that." And then after so many years of silence, of removing himself from the world of spoken word and painted image, it was again the great suffering of a new man that lead him back into the world of Speech. And his words were those of consolation, of syptathetically identifying himself with the sufferings of an angry man moved by what he percieved as a great injustice against himself. His speech of consolation ended with the words, "We will be together. You will make bells, and I will paint icons."

So, with my own great sufferings behind me (not like in the past and never to return, but as in behind and with me as I came to face the world before and with me), and with the sufferings and corruption of mankind fresh in my mind from the film Andrei Rublev, I softly spoke a consoling few words to a beautiful little girl. And soon thereafter an iconic image was granted to me from above that pointed beyond itself and back to that Place from whence it came.

In Rublev's beautiful and glorious icons that fill the screen at the culminating end of the film, most of which at least were painted after his sixteen years of silence as words of consolation, the Light comes from elsewhere. But it is evident everywhere in the image; and interwoven into all the structural relationships between each part. Just as the sins and sufferings are interwoven throughout the structural parts of the film and illuminated by the Light of the icons at its end, the sins and sufferings of myself and mankind are illuminated by the light that seems to gloriously radiate from no natural light source within the varous parts of the icons that are structurally distinguished by dark and penetrating lines of blackness or by deeply moving shadows that draw you into the the liminal horizon lines that visually and structurally distinguish between each character or part in the painting. As they say, "It is our sufferings that make us." As Rublev says, however, "God is good."

As I spoke such soft words of consolation to a violently crying beautiful little girl, two things stand out to me. On is the depth of darkness and pain in the abyss of her eyes that seemed to participate in the distinguishing shades and shadows at play on her backlit nose, her weary face, exasperated hair, the still point of her neck upon which it all stood, and her fisted then extended hands that were rubbing the side of her recently disturbed and tear-drenched face. The other is the Twilight of seemingly from other-where peacefulness and amazing goodness softly falling on her backlit cheeks, the bridge and tip of her nose, the tips of the most wildly exasperated starnds of hair, and, most of all, at the fronts of those heavy tears emerging from the depths of her eyes that were then to fall, like the free golden intonations of a great dark bell, down her little face and off the sides of her cheeks and the bottom of her softly shadowed chin.

We carry each other. We are like One. The black and white of Andrei Rublev carries the colors of Andrei Rublev. Rublev's colors carry Tarkovsky to inspiration, and Tarkovsky carries Rublev to us. The soon to be black and blue bruise of the little girl carries my sympathy to her own colors as she carries them to me. With this post I carry my own suffering to you. My sufferings, in many ways, are your carrying of your sufferings to me. We carry each other. We carry our sufferings to God, and He bears them. We carry our sufferings to God, and He carries us. He carries us, and we carry Him. We carry each other. We carry each other. One.

A beautiful meditation, Jason.
Hey, thanks man :)
The part where the bellmaker's son cries... You say it's because he was mad that his father didn't tell him the secret. I remember it more as his being overwhelmed at the amount of sheer physical and emotional energy he had expended, and astonished that he actually succeeded through sheer creative instinct/inspiration rather than having been taught. A kind of ecstatic and exhausted joy. Interesting contrast in our two perspectives.
Yeah, that is interesting. I felt too as though a large part of it was the energy that had gone into making the bell...and what he finally accomplished. But then at the end...I realized that the whole time...he was being mean to people and laughing saying "what if it doesn't ring"...because he was so nervous and anxious. At the end it seemed like the bit of actual anger finally came out...with the rest of it. I felt like there was anger, joy, much all at once. That's why it was so powerful, I felt. But yes...I find it interesting that that's what I decided to mention with my words, while leaving the other part out. I tried to sort of convey all the energy that went into the film and into the audience in general...but even still...why did I focus on the anger there?
And why did I not acknowledge the anger? If his father had taught him, he wouldn't have been so worried during the whole ordeal... but he also wouldn't have known what he was capable of accomplishing as a creator. So he might also have been angry if his father had taught him the secret.
Interesting. I wonder...if he father HAD taught him the secret, would he have continued to push to greater feats? Or would he have simply replicated what he father taught? I find it interesting that he was basically, literally, PUSHED by physical hunger and spiritual lonliness to even attempt the feat. AND that, whether he did or did not accept the challenge, it was his very LIFE that was at stake.
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