A Way of Being Free

A lesson in letting go.

Anyone who has ever studied the question with any seriousness, apart from their own self-interest, can tell you: it is attachment that will kill you, and once you let go of those who prey on knowing this, they will stop killing you until it is time to die.

Meanwhile, there is work to do. 

With practice, a body bent on living may eventually learn to avoid what makes them ill. The learning is hard and long, but when it comes it will be real and more lasting than any false promise could ever be, and suddenly you will know that you are finally repulsed by what you have been meaning not to care for.                     

That’s when you know the work of your atonement is done, she said, and you can be done with waiting in the name of humility, and you need not keep waiting for the next humiliation when the lesson takes.

Which is to say, I loved and lost, over and again. Who doesn’t, when a woman, bent on giving it all away? Still, there comes a time when it is clear as the first light of the sun: it is possible, in the end, to be giving and remain untaken, unfettered from the claims of those who would take all you have for their gain, especially when it is your whole life.

It is possible that the path to this understanding is the oldest story ever understood. Nevertheless, we keep needing to learn.

Here at last, live on stage! Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve been waiting for in vain, the opening night of A Way of Being Free! And now, let me die by your satisfied mouths. I remove the breast while the director sleeps, and move on.



Inspired by certain projects I once believed in, and the learning that followed. And by Ben Okri.

In Good Company

Beneath surfaces.

For the poet, it came down to a single wish: growth. Can you tell me how? She asked, bare against the elements. There was singing by the burial ground, and she remembered the childhood friends that spoke of immortality––one by one and then were gone. Just before they fell, they imagined themselves suns.

Later, she went to the school of omission. It is possible in a dream to be a guest in the land of the dead. There, she met a blind woman on a low bench, chewing. You are much better company than the ones who think themselves gods, she said, and they wrote for a long time together, there by the light of the axe.


Instead of a story.

I guess the weight of it all is what keeps us longing for some hour of grace, she said. The subject was an idea that one of us was floating, of a truth big enough to shatter the ends of us whole again. We were tired, but she said we would lose the fight if we knew what was before us. Then a strong wind blew, and we were lost again, only now we knew this better than we had before. 

Now we’re getting somewhere, she rasped, and we looked up again, hoping she would elaborate, but she was doubled over, laughing through her tears.

An Invitation

From the artist.

Come in here, through the glass. After this, find a smaller room

If you come this way, there might be a form you can follow.

Now an oak door, old and it will not open. But it has windows!

Most shrug and walk away.

Next, an exhibition, but in the dark. Visitors can carry flashlights,

but these only help if they shine them in the right places.

What is the opposite of a need to proclaim? A need to stay silent.

In the tension between these, so much is tangled.


Inspired by the work of Marcel Duchamp.

The Long Becoming

With Christian Wiman.

When they asked the poet how he became one, he said, I’ve been wondering.

The assembly waited for more. There were follow-up questions, a discussion about certain ineffable qualities: a sense of life brought to bear in language. A sense that the density of life’s layers may be represented with a clarity of expression. The importance of having a capacity to suffer; to know and express grief without making a shrine to wonder.

Then the poet asked, what do you believe? If you don’t believe in poetry, you can’t write it. He tried to explain what happens when suddenly everything learned will no longer do; how over time, an original wound may become the site of roots for a larger life.

But how? They pressed, and he repeated, I wonder.


Notes while reading Christian Wiman’s Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet (2004, Copper Canyon Press).

Reading in Space

Across time.

A question for the author: how do you want people to feel when they walk into this book? She answered by blackening a number of pages, then adding windows. If you stood before the words in the sunlight, they would curve across your body like cats.

The best part of the book, she answered, is what I don’t understand––also, the suspended moment when a page is turned; the wait between words, as especially what they do not say.

She invited the doubters among us to put our fingers in the wound between voice and image, and again between voice and word, between voice and speaker, the speaker and her intentions, and we were beginning to get a sense every page brought with it another wound.

Every page revealed itself by slicing us open, and we fell to the floor to collect ourselves like autumn leaves to our chests, a gesture of remembrance for all we had yet to imagine we were.

Between decay and emergence, these open windows. And from window to window, the broken skins between space and her time.


Inspired by the work of Lynn Xu, whose debut exhibit And Those Ashen Heaps That Cantilevered Vase of Moonlight is currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary art in Tuscon, Arizona.


When despair is beside the point.

What is needed now is a bravery reason can’t summon, a hope that persists beyond all rights to it; a solemn acknowledgement that our despair is none of our business.

The greater the possible effect of our actions; the less we are able to see it. When senses become myopic, only imagination will do. It seems our capacity for fear is too small, outstripped by the magnitude of the moment. How strange, to need the courage to be frightened; to frighten thy neighbor as thyself with fearless, stirring fear. To understand how fear for is distinct from fear of.

Camouflage, once needed to hide from an enemy, now prevents the actor from knowing what is being done. Strip meaning from language and the lie no longer needs a disguise. 

Let us remember, repeated frustration does not refute the need to repeat the effort. Every new failure bears fruit. Instead of deferring to experts, may we collectively interfere with established pretenses of expertise.

What would happen, one among us asks, if you dared to make yourself as big as you actually are? And what could happen, echoes another, if we do not?


Inspired by (and with borrowed phrases from) the philosophy of Günther Anders.

Angels of History

A prayer for the real work.

In the dark of the valley, the sense of an emergency was the beginning of an understanding that we had none of our own––not yet, except in the wild beat of the drums where we gathered in the streets. The gods of progress, long disgraced, continued to shout. We pounded the drums against their noise, and our hearts awakened, to dance in revolt against their empty reasons.

There is an angel among us, pausing to awaken the dead. But a storm stops his wings. Though he turns his back against the future they call progress, the storm blows him into it.

Let the future not be the vast emptiness and us the supplicants of soothsayers. May our knowledge of time be an act of remembrance, our concept of work what we do in service to creation and not as slaves to the death engines of progress. Give us the courage to recognize the narrow gate in every second and be moved.


Inspired by the moment at hand and by Walter Benjamin’s essay “On the Concept of History.” In this essay, Benjamin vividly animates the context of Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus.

Ordinary Noise

The role of contrasting elements.

In art, dreams are realized––and the worst, not to be measured or weighted, but lived. Counting may follow, anguished measurements in the unflinching face of midday, when anyone with living ties to memory is susceptible to affliction by the pretense that all is well and as it seems, amid the noise of countless machines, distracting from a vast hum in the background.

This is why mornings and evenings are so much kinder, because the dominant noises are more obviously birds, revelers, and other wild sounds, none of which pretend any allegiance to standardized notions of good sense, which routinely kill without making any noise beyond those that have become so ordinary and expected, they may easily go unheard.


Into the dark.

Some would go for the quick thrill of a familiar spectacle, but you did it differently, pointing a lens toward endurance. Only the unthinkable is interesting, you said, and who could argue? Sensing the dark did not change its darkness, but it was possible to train at walking forward in it, bumping along. 

Well, you reminded. There has never been a time when this was safe. We took off our shoes and entered.


Inspiration: Franz Kafka’s writing, particularly when he writes about  “the Holy of the Holies” in his fragment Wedding Preparations in the Country.