i see who you are
behind the skin and the muscles. i see who you are now and when you get older later i will see the same girl, the same soul, lioness, fireheart, passionate lover. i see who you are now and afterwards, later this century when you and i have become corpses. let’s celebrate now all this flesh on our bones. let me push you up against me, tightly, and enjoy every bit of you.
i see who you are now.
now i see who you are.
one day in the fall of 2012 when i was still in detention in moscow with two of the other activists of pussy riot, i visited you. in a dream, of course.
we picked up the argument about the horses, about the world spirit, about the antics and irreverence, as well as why and how all of the above very firmly connected to each other.
it just so happened that pussy riot became part of a force that aims to criticize, to create, to experiment and relentlessly provoke. to turn to the famous formula by nietzsche, we the children of dionysus were floating on a barrel and recognized no authority. we are part of a force that does not give final answers and does not proclaim absolute truths. our function is to question. on one side, there are the architects of the apollonian stability on the other, the (punk-)singers of dynamism and becoming. some are better than others. but only together can we ensure the functioning of the eternal breath of the world, or to quote heraclitus: “this universe, which is the same for all, has not been made by any god or man, but it always has been, is, and will be an ever-living fire, kindling itself by regular measures and going out by regular measures.”
we are part of the rebellion who wish for the storm (as to seek peace)¹, and believe that the truth is found only in an endless search. as nicolas berdyaev², in his “essay in autobiography” wrote: “there is no truth as an object that is put on me as a reality that falls on me from heaven. the truth is the path of life, it is a spiritual conquest. the truth is conceived in liberty and through liberty.” […] “i see christianity as a revolt against the world and its law”. […] “sometimes a nightmarish thought passed through my head: what if the slave orthodoxy is right, then i’m lost, but i quickly dismissed this thought.” in this regard there is no difference between the rhetoric of pussy riot and the russian religious philosopher. in 1898, berdyaev was arrested for his involvement in the student social-democratic movement and was accused of ”intention to undermine the foundations of the monarchy and the church.” he was exiled from kiev for three years in the province of saratov. so if the “world spirit” hits you, do not expect it to be painless.
the intuition - that the blind are leading the blind - is terribly important. the key is to understand that this age is blind, even you. this awareness allows a person, perhaps for the first time in his life, to doubt his natural orientation, which is rooted in his skin and bones, and that always threatens to spill into his entire being, generating terror.
it would be tempting to think that fundamentalism is the only situation that breeds terror. in reality, fundamentalists are only the visible tip of the iceberg. let us remember the good old anti-fascist slogan: ”while the fascists did their killing, those in power took cover.” at the initiative of an ultraconservative organization, the people’s council, a process was started against my friend andrei erofeev for his forbidden art exhibition in 2006 (which risked him a couple of years in prison camp), and he said: “if the actions of the popular council had not been approved by state structures, this process would not have taken place”. this suggests that the orientation that can lead to the rise of violence is reproduced by “experts” who are close to power and supposedly competent to take particular decisions. as laurie anderson³ sang: “only an expert can deal with the problem”. we, along with laurie, would do well to cast a peg to the experts and look at ourselves for solving our problems. because expert status does not give access to the kingdom of absolute truths.
those who came up with the saying “truth comes out from the children’s mouth” were far from being stupid. it’s not for nothing that in russia the innocent, the fools for christ are so revered. in january 2012 pussy riot honored the russian fool by performing at the cathedral of st. basil the blessed, located in the political center of the russian capital, on red square. sensitivity to the spirit of the times and cultural adequacy is not attached to diplomas of higher education institutions and is not contained in briefcases and portfolios of office clerks, but happens rather, as they say, haphazardly. and humor, buffoonery, irreverence can be of use in the quest for the truth. the truth is many-sided and many people seek it. and they all differ from each other. “different but equal” proclaims another anti-fascist slogan.
and i think plato was wrong and that man is not just the “biped without feathers” as he described. man has more doubts than a plucked rooster. and i love these people: dionysian, spontaneous, keen to understand something new and different, preferring movement and inspiration to immutable dogmas and rules. in short, the child bearers of truth.
two years in prison for pussy riot - our tribute to destiny given to us by her keen sense of hearing, allowing us to play the note in a, although the long-standing traditions are used to listening to g flat.
how to resolve the standoff between experts and children? i do not know. but one thing i can say with certainty: the role of children, as in the days of herod, is the one of resistance, like moses we will find the basket with the daughter of the pharao, who will come to our aid. in the lives of those who, like children, will find the victory of truth over falsehood, of mutual aid, and live according to the virtue of giving, always at the right moment a miracle will occur.
1. quote from the poem by mikhail lermontov’s (1814-1841) “the sailboat”
2. russian philosopher (1874-1948) went into exile in france.
3. american musician and multimedia performer born in 1947 and wife of lou reed.
make your soul grow.
november 5, 2006.
dear xavier high school, and ms. lockwood, and messrs perin, mcfeely, batten, maurer and congiusta:
i thank you for your friendly letters. you sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. i don’t make public appearances any more because i now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
what i had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
seriously! i mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. draw a funny or nice picture of ms. lockwood, and give it to her. dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. make a face in your mashed potatoes. pretend you’re count dracula.
here’s an assignment for tonight, and i hope ms. lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. no fair tennis without a net. make it as good as you possibly can. but don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or ms. lockwood. ok?
tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. you will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. you have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
god bless you all!
* back in 2006, a group of students at xavier high school in new york city were given an assignment by their english teacher, ms. lockwood, that was to test their persuasive writing skills: they were asked to write to their favorite author and ask him or her to visit the school. five of those pupils chose vonnegut. this was his thoughtful reply, the only response the class received.
i am full of light.
i am filled with joy.
i am full of peace.
i had this dream that i forgave my enemies.
* on a lover’s discourse: fragments.
in the realm of boredom, good manners forbid everything that is not imposed by the routine. men dream of retiring and women to marry. the young people, guilty for the crime of being young, suffer the penalty of loneliness or exile, unless they can prove they are old.
* excerpt from the book of embraces.
on sep 9, 2013 (name) wrote:
i’ve been wrestling with something since your show in portland on friday night. i’ll say right up front that i can’t imagine a way in which this won’t be slightly awkward. okay, here goes.
first of all, i really enjoyed the set you guys played. i found it beautiful and deeply relaxing. after the show i bought a copy of (album name), which i have since listened to and, while i’m sure i would have enjoyed it at a certain point in my life, i was sort of hoping it would sound more like the set that night.
by now you’re probably at least mildly annoyed. i’m sure this email represents some kind of cliche of about musicians and their fans, but $20 is a lot of money to me and i was really hoping to be able to enjoy some of your music at home. is there a different album (or two) that i could possibly trade my copy of (album name)? it’s still in perfect condition. if so, i would really appreciate it.
thanks and sorry for the awkwardness of this. i like your music a lot.
on sep 9, 2013 phil wrote:
your email was well worded and gracious, and you are clearly considerate of the awkwardness of the situation. that said, i feel compelled to give you some “straight talk”, so please pardon any abruptness.
basically, i feel like you need to adjust your perception of our exchange. you need to treat me like an artist, not a store that sells pants. what i am doing is making art and selling it. a fundamental aspect of art (music, visual, whatever) is that it is wild and unpredictable and meant to transport you somewhere beyond your present spot. i presume you would not ask for your money back at the movie theater if the movie didn’t match your expectations. you would not send your food back at the restaurant if you weren’t into the flavor (i guess some people actually do this but if you do, please stop). putting your money towards art, music, film, etc., even food, is a gesture of interest that you are making towards being shown something new. you are not purchasing a reliable product like pants. you are voting “yes” for mystery. i know that i might resemble a store, with my website and merch table and all these commodities, but i am an artist and i believe that music should remain unpredictable and occasionally frustrating, and ultimately rewarding, magical.
i’m sorry you didn’t care for the cd you bought, but that’s part of existence. hopefully you’ll realize that you like the album someday. or perhaps you will permanently dislike my music now. in any case, i hope you can see some sense in what i say and remember that art is not certain and not ask other musicians the same question.
thanks for being into my stuff in the first place.
sorry if i’m mean.
teresa // 2013.
words are icebergs.
you only see the little tip which sticks out of the sea. but under the water…
…there is all the rest.
i love you.