Some thoughts on the beauty of difficulty

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Newcastle, Ouseburn Valley, June 2017

You find yourself wounded and wandering around. You find yourself disorientated and thinking of where to go. You hear a voice “Let’s head up to the hill”. But you do not see a hill. You decide to stop “hearing voices” and you keep trying to find a way-through. The ground is wet from the recent rain and trees are hiding the paths. Some bridges, remnants of unfulfilled and utopian “developments” of the 1950s, are hanging over your head. You cannot find your way to the bridges, but neither through the forest. You are stuck at the same spot trying to find your way-through. Your way back or fore? You do not know. Paths are opened to suggest a direction. Streets and bridges are constructed to suggest a direction, a future projection. They are all veins of a complex system of relationships. They are all interwoven into a fabric of ways and stops. Perhaps this is where you find yourself: at a stop created while the veins were interwoven. At a clearing, just to remember Heidegger. A clearing in the forest and not a deadlock as you want to believe; these in-between spaces that allow the fabric to breath and yourself to get lost and feel weak and seek for help. It does not feel nice when found in such a situation. Definitely not and nobody could suggest you to feel like that. The topography itself has difficult moments that do not feel nice and beautiful. They just feel as unresolved. In these moments (of life?) one could perhaps remind himself/herself of the  beauty (κάλλος) of the Cross. The difficulty that each of us has already inherited as an undeniable part of his/her life. The unresolved moments of life that create a chain of eternity. A chain of moments that while not the same they keep beating the sound of a drone, the drone of the Cross. But you still cannot find a way-through and you are still hearing the voice “Let’s head up to the hill”. It is rather insane to keep trying to find a hill but it is the only option for you. To start walking through the forest in order to find a hill. The plantation is thick and you cut through it to create a route, your route. Your body pushes through the gap between two boles while your eyes seek for the next gap and the hill. The hill is the aim. From its peak you will be able to see the whole topography and orientate yourself again in it. Looking from above becomes the aim of your walking through the forest while a route is already being inscribed by your body. Your body that some time before was stuck in the deadlock wondering where to go. The route is inscribed by your faith that a hill is “somewhere there” and your certainty that your way through is gradually becoming a way up. A way up to a hill that it is there, perhaps inside you; but definitely there.

Just stop wandering/wondering and walk-through-and-up. There is a always a hill to look from above.

Brokenness as a way of life: Transforming the Gap into Pauses of Stillness

Coming closer to the end of Lent, the Holy Week and the intensifying anticipation of the celebration of the Resurrection that keeps happening in God’s eternity, I keep thinking of (and living) brokenness. I go back to the Sign of the Theotokos, the church in Montreal where I realized the significance of brokenness, weakness, asymmetry and Cross in life. I keep recollecting Fr. Gregory’s words: “You need to be broken in order the Light to enter your Soul” and keep thinking of the traces of wounds as gifts.

 

Figure 11. The first talanton rite. - CopyRefectorySilence-Scape.jpg

Tracing Athonite Silences

 

Have you ever thought of the importance of brokenness and imperfection in our lives? The significance of the space of a crack and the dynamics of its potential healing and filling? Every time a crack is made the possibility of its filling opens inviting you to a creative process of a deeper knowing of yourself and the others. It has been two years since the Easter at the Sign (2015) and my soul is still there through brokenness and the possibility of its transformation into pauses of liturgical and prayerful stillness.  A month after the period I spent in Canada I had a discussion with a monk from Gregoriou monastery on the same burning theme:

-Father Neophyte how are we going to live our brokenness? Through prayer?

-Through silent prayer and the serving of the others.

 

Keep silent and serve the others. Father Neophytos is one of the living examples of this way of life. Keeping silent and serving the others he is practicing the healing of brokenness.  Can we keep trying to find our way through brokenness, asymmetry and weakness? Can a “mistake” or a “disaster” become opportunities to find ourselves shocked and falling into a void that feels uncanny? Resisting to fill the void with the reception of Care we keep falling hoping to find ourselves bridging the gap via the stillness of hesychia, the space and time of which can perhaps give us the taste of Paradise. Silence the gap and pace your serving to the other to transform the crack into a meaningful pause. Pausing as a verb and the realization of our brokenness and unknown as the only undeniable possibilities of life.

 

-Father, I do not know where I am going, but I know that I want to walk along the path leading to this unknown.

-Good. This is the right way my son.

[A discussion between a friend and Father Antonios on Mount Athos]

 

What is the purpose of living in the in-betweenness of a broken self? What is the purpose of deciding to live in the gap of a seemingly “lost” moment? To decide to pace your way to an unknown end? To feel the broken and unknown as an opportunity of pausing in stillness?

F:St Vladimir's PresentationApl Gallery Space Model (1)

Scoring Athonite Pauses

The Opening Door

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I know that it has been quite a long period of time since I last wrote something here, but to tell you the truth I was frantically writing stories in real life, something that is magical but sometimes intense and exhausting. I stop here to remember the truth of the moving home and the opening door. The home that fits into boxes and suitcases and travels from city to city, to find its place. What is a home? Someone keeps asking while traveling around. Pretending to have a home another one unpacks and unfolds. Unpacking and unfolding usually become the first movements after Opening a (the?) Door. After the opening of a door an unpacking and unfolding of a story happens. A story clearly written for a person that will start reading it by inhabiting the space. Reading it and re-writing it constantly, almost like a ritual of habitual (re)readings. The Opening Door plays a key role in the life of a home. There is something about the effort that you put to push it and the times that this need to be repeated that makes it an event of homing a place. By pushing the door a home story might open for you to read, either by yourself or with another person. Its handle and its frame become the bearers of this pushing-in-a-home. The hinges become the compasses of its ratio. Its materiality differs depending period, style and context (geographical and cultural). From a curtain to a heavy piece, the door is about an opening and a closing-behind. Its presence is about the future and the past at the same time. What you leave behind and what you will find ahead. Never hesitate to turn a door. The door is all about moving, moving is always better than standing. Never be afraid of making this little step along the threshold, as there is always a challenge waiting just after the opening, a challenge of intimacy. Of getting to know people and places in a better way. And even when you leave people and things behind, just remember that they are always with you in the moving landscapes of thoughts and imagination. Never hesitate my friend. Just open the door and close it behind you. Or perhaps leave it open for another person to move with you.

A very good friend from Puerto Rico has a number of rituals of familiarising with new places. She keeps moving from city to city, visiting new cities and revisiting same places. She always unpacks and unfolds her rituals when she arrives at a destination in order to feel that she keeps walking on the same, open, path of discovering the world that becomes her own world through rituals of inhabitation.

Keep moving! No matter what happens you will never regret of hesitating.

Lighthouse Keeper

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Lighthouse (From the Greek Movie ‘Το Φως που Σβήνει’, 2000)

Late in the evening. Dark and rainy. Walking in the city again. Walking as a Lighthouse Keeper. Have you ever shared with me this attraction to Lighthouse keepers? These ascetics of littoral zones that work with the light to guide seamen? The musicians of light and the collaborators of Poseidon in the conquering of the sea? The Lighthouse keeper is another role model that gives an inspiration for creative interaction with the silence of the lonely nature. The nocturnal experience of the wet city always reminds the walker the darkness of the sea. Sailing in a city with fading lights behind the rainy curtains you feel the need of becoming a Lighthouse Keeper; move to the periphery, go up to your Lighthouse and start playing a light-concert with your mirrors. Discuss with a storm and arrange a meeting with unknown boats. I am sure that a Lighthouse keeper can even listen to the voice of the light he sheds on the sea. I am sure that light has a voice – there is an unheard sound in the reflection of light on the sea that can be only heard by the Lighthouse keeper. Walking in the rainy city as a lighthouse keeper you keep thinking of guiding through light. The recollection of the “O Joyful Light…” of the Vespers you shared previously with four or five co-parishioners makes the idea of working on a Lighthouse project even more attractive. Drawing from literature and movies you keep thinking of a Lighthouse that guides the paces of the walkers in a stormy night.  An urban lighthouse that becomes visible only in dark and rainy days to guide the people to common unknown routes. A Lighthouse that guides people to unknown meeting places. Becoming the keeper of this ‘house is just for a moment the dream of your life. What you really want is to make sure that your imagination will be able to grasp this moment of the silence in the conversation of the sea with the light.

Moving Mountains

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Moving Mountains. A Traveling Landscape Object (Mountains & Megastructures, Newcastle University – March 2016)

In June 2014 the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture organised an International Symposium and parallel (architectural & artistic) Exhibition under the title ‘Moving Mountains: Studies in Place, Society and Cultural Representation’ (Organisers/Curators: Christos Kakalis and Emily Goetsch). The cabinet has been designed as a moving archive of the Moving Mountains’ event, a ‘traveling landscape object’ that suggests a re-curating of the exhibited material. The cabinet includes works of STASUS, Maria Mitsoula, Miguel Paredes, Kostas Manolidis, Carlos Arroyo, Eugenio Fernandez, Christos Kakalis, Kim W. Wilson, Claire Breen, IC-98, Jessica Ramm, Kevin Raines, Akshaya Narsimhan.

Many thanks to Paul Diamond.

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stop thinking of it and just do it

In a sprinter van (Mugo driving) and listening to African music. Quite early in the morning. The scenery is nice; driving by the sea in a foggy morning. Small houses, rocky fields with some greenery. Moving a piece to Newcastle with Stevenson’s Treasure Island in the big pocket of your jacket. It is one more moment that cannot happen again. After long hours, and days and weeks of hard work, in the dizziness of knowing and not knowing of what will happen next you pass the border to England listening to African music and having a wonderful conversation on moving populations. It is the beginning of the Lent and your moving mind keeps returning to previous beginnings of the Lent. Your mind moves away from the van and goes back to Greece, Edinburgh, Canada. You keep discussing about moving bodies. “My daughter was born in Zimbabwe”. “Edinburgh feels like home now”. “I have my family back but do not go very often”. Your body is there, but your mind keeps moving. It is also that you do not use cars in Edinburgh but just walk. Moving faster than walking makes you think differently. Why is the landscape running outside of the car’s window? What is the reason for the rhythm of the turning wheels to make me think of recurrent time? Why do I keep thinking of previous moments and why do I still hope of future dreams? You know that the piece is huge to go up to the first floor and you know that you do not know how you are going to take it up there. But you are still in the van, listening to African music and discussing with Mugo about movement. You are here and there at the same time. Where? Everywhere and nowhere. The moving mind is immersed in the moving landscape and the thoughts and daily concerns are all lost in a moving moment. It is definitely moving to think of uncertainty as a way of living. And it is definitely moving to think of instability as the only way to MOVE; something obvious etymologically that we always forget in the stability of a routine that is totally different of the stillness of a life waiting for unpredictable moments to change it or even confirm its openness to absorb them. And while you keep moving towards a destination you lose the sense of direction and in this losing of direction and certainty you realise that life is just a matter of losing its control. You smile and keep thinking of a dark evening in Canada when Lent was starting in the fullness of uncertainty and the stillness of a stasis that taught you how to keep moving. In the darkness of a brokenness that allows movement to happen. “What if I hadn’t moved forwards?” There is not such a question. There is always a gratitude to movement’s brokenness. To move forwards requires a moment of brokenness of a previous state of stability. And this brokenness (either sudden, or intentional) is a gift. A gift to be lived as a blessing of reality. And suddenly a new voice of your life visits your mind: “stop thinking of it and just do it”, reminding you the reason of your driving to England with a wooden piece in a van. A voice that fired the conditions for this reason to exist. “Stop thinking of it and just do it” or even “stop thinking of it and just move forwards”. You smile again and your lips cannot stop:

“Fifteen men on The Dead Man’s Chest/Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! / Drink and the devil had done for the rest/ Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum.”

 

The 50 kg piece was lifted up to the first floor by one person and was there when it had to be there and it worked as it had to work, as a moving trace of a previous static event.

‘on an old piano stool’

It is just an image of the life. An event that has already become a memory. Along the platform No2 of the station of Berwick-Upon-Tweed (a very small city along the border between England and Scotland) after long hours of teaching and dis-connecting yourself from the rest of your life. Sitting on a 19th century piano stool bought from a small antique shop, waiting for the train, drinking filter coffee from a metal flask and web-chatting with friends from all over the world. It is not the digital or the concrete, it is not the setting sun and the pink clouds. Not even the surprising delay and the laughs that you had just shared with your colleagues while shaking them Goodbye to the London direction. It is the whole of the experience as such. A moment that cannot happen daily, and it is difficult to happen again. A moment of deeply breathing in the air of its energy to be carried back to your daily life and be gradually given back to the atmosphere.

You take your stool, move it 4 metres further away to have a better wifi signal.

Corazon con patas.

…doing is just walking and making friendships…

I will be waiting for you with my stool.

…very useful if the pub is full…I can bring a table…

Αυτά περιμένοντας το τραινο σε μια αδεια πλατφόρμα πάνω σε ένα σκαμνί πιάνου.

..another immigrant girl who likes vodka with orange juice
The train arrives an hour after the announced one. You take the stool in and find your seat. Coach C, Seat 43. Back to Edinburgh to find friends at a pub carrying a 19th century piano stool bought with a colleague at Berwick. You sit on it while drinking and eating and chatting (physically this time) and then while getting tired and deciding to go back home. You carry your stool on the way back and keep chatting and sometimes laughing. At some point you remember the beginning of the day, and the previous day, and the day before. For a moment you realise that they can be read both as really difficult but also funny. And you just decide to carry your stool walking back home (even laughing sometimes  alone) and spend the rest of your night thinking of how the pianist owning the stool might have looked like.