Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Living with a barren wall

The greater portion of walls in my current abode are bare. I like 'em walls to be that way -- chewed clean like bone, empty of nuances yet pregnant with possibilities.

I construe those walls as a reflecting mirror, as an "expression of the inmost self." Anyhow, one imparts generous portions of himself in his milieu, infects the very space he occupies with his sensibilities. I could do some carpentry, fix in a shelf, fill it with my books-- and the wall speaks volumes about me. Woodcraft and reading matter and all the bric-a-brac dumped there would proclaim of the human presence that redefined those confining walls with a few strokes, some choices of materials imbued there.

One could tack a nude centerfold (there's a Hokusai woodblock print of a woman vendor with bared breasts that I recently downloaded from the Internet) or any present-day icon (I'd like U2's Bono and his quote about singing, "All it takes is three! chords and the truth."), a poster of one of my early plays, a pair of kobudo kama or sai, a print or two, even an antique map or an inexpensive painting... and the very details I've tacked on the wall will conveniently conjure a label on me. I'm taking evasive action. I'm living as close as I can get to the bone.

The wall in my current abode would likely be at loss to speak of me -- or, to be precise, it'll be muted.

It is a choice to keep the walls sparing. The wall's stripped down to the barest essence. Scrubbed and scoured clean of adornments and decorations. Bare but not barren.

I'd like 'em walls to stay as empty as an unruffled pond's surface. Bare walls breathe of depth and breadth and space. I could use the hum of calm there that ought to rub off on me. Most folks can't stand the sight of emptiness, which an empty wall conveys. In like manner, your average bloke can't bear silence; silence is gold which dullards and nincompoops tarnish with a sewer-rush of blabber readily available on any electronic noise box (a cell phone, a stack of stereo components, TV, etc.) or a babble of their own voices. Maybe, I'm selfish. Or I'd like to hear more from the deeper part of me, get into an earnest conversation with my spirit -- if I have any, pwe-he-he-he!

See here. For want of space or just subconscious greed, urban dwelling squatters and low- to medium-cost subdivision homeowners build over every square inch of the lot they've settled on. House extensions are built over the years until the entire homelot is a choked mess without any garden, without any space to grow anything on. Everything's walled in, including the dwellers. Anthropologist Desmond Morris pinpoints to this propensity to efface living space as a predisposing factor that can trigger psychological neuroses and sexual perversions. Plainly: the denser the population, the denser the population.

Then, there's Bavarian polyglot-mystic named Karl Haushofer who ! asserted that living space is not a source of power, living space is power. He could be right: Indian shamans and brujos immerse their bodies and spirits in the vast wastelands, steeling themselves and absorbing the ferocity of the open landscape. There's Jesus Christ who fasted 40 days in the desert before stirring up a political tempest and catalyzing a paradigm shift in Roman-occupied Jerusalem. There's my choice to do the annual purification rite of misogi harai in the mind-expanding wilderness-- never in the pressure cooker confines of an urban neighborhood.

Well, the dwellers of a Zambales coastal community I visited sometime last year somehow hew closer to the idea propunded by Haushofer. Their huts aren't huddled together like stone cold drunks trying to get on their feet. Lots of space come between their dwellings, the gaps about a stone's throw or even at the effective range of a caliber .45 pistol. I find that very conducive to enabling a sense of respect for the ! privacy of others. There's more than legal nicety made to work here by those coastal village dwellers. Our democratically constituted republic (this comes from the Latin res, "matters" + publica, "public") is hinged on matters that affects the public. Our nation's policy-makers (and media practitioners, well, almost everybody trying to bring cheer via the cell phone, the landline and all that electronic gadgetry we have infected ourselves so virulently) have yet to consider the res-privata that is hinged on the ennobling and respect for the private individual.

The empty walls -- and the depth of field, the breadth of perspective, and the inner spaces they conjure -- become a playground for the light I flick on and the consequent shadows I cast there.

Maybe, keeping the walls bare is an option to dwell in that tenuous balance of light and shadow, entering the so-called state of kage of martial lore that lends a deep color and tone to the human character. Perhaps, it! may lead to rediscovering Plato's cave as paradigm of enlightenment. Or it's just replicating an attitude effected by Daruma (the progenitor of karate-do) who sat unmoved before a wall for years.

Call this bloke a bare wallflower -- emptied yet, brimming.

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