Sunday, September 1, 2002

songs of love and devotion and other things of astonishing beauty

recently re-read jayadeva's gitavoginda, or love song of the dark lord. an ancient indian lyrical poem about krishna's intensely earthly loves, seldom have i read words of more exquisite passion. i have always enjoyed the ecstatic poems of the sufi - those great songs of love and devotion - and indian qawwali music can be astounding (although my neighbours may disagree). i had the pleasure of seeing the whirling dervishes once, and will always remember feeling on fire as i watched them spin...

this makes me think about the nature of communication. when i listen to the music, i do not understand a word. but i feel it. is it what it represents? the connotations it carries? am i merely succumbing to the exotic? i know enough about the religion and history to be able to contextualise what i hear and see, and i cannot help but to recall the translated words i have read. but it seems to me that what i am experiencing is more of a being and a doing. the music and dance are performed, and by that i mean that their meaning is derived through their performance. they acted on me, and i on them: we created each other, performed each other into existence.

the first time i went to a bullfight, i was nervous and anxious. i had no desire to watch an animal suffer, but in the face of my mother's unwavering insistence that we experience all aspects of the cultures of the countries in which we lived, i silently capitulated. and few experiences in my life would compare to the astounding beauty and eroticism i saw that day. the matador was the most stunning creature i had ever seen: his costume reminded me of a peacock, and his back arched like a suspension bridge when he stood in front of the bull. i was afraid for him, and i resented the animal he challenged. the competition was extraordinary, and enthralled with their dance, i sobbed when the bull finally fell. i looked at the matador and he may as well have been glowing: not a piece of clothing ruffled, nor sweat or a drop of blood. he was perfection and calmness in the face of chaos. when they gave him the ears and tail - the ultimate reward for a good fight - i stood and cheered.

in the buried mirror, carlos fuentes describes the interaction between the bull and the matador, and specifically cargar la suerte - breaking the bull's charge - and the perfect pase, that "astonishing instant of statuesque coupling, bull and fighter enlaced, entwined, giving each other the qualities of force, beauty, and risk, in an image that seems at the same time immobile and dynamic. the mythic moment is restored: man and bull are once more, as in the labyrinth of minos, the same."

is this communication between the bull and the matador to be found only in abstract or symbolic representation? is it an allegorical relationship? do they metonymically switch with each other? or are they only and always what the other makes them?


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