PALESTINE, 2 March – On a slender, meter-wide ledge outside the Egypt Club, Xue Faith and 15 friends and relatives stood in the cool evening air, gazed off into the nearly 20km visibility, and contemplated the last hour of Xue’s teenage years. Then at the stroke of midnight, we went inside the warmer and less precarious Egypt Club and danced with the now 20-year-old till the wee hours.
A half-century ago Allan Kaprow argued that Jackson Pollock’s process was even more interesting that the resulting objects. It’s an insight that I continue to strive to understand and live. We need neither objects, nor heroic performances. Sugar Mountain was a very simple performance. Simply to stand with a friend. To acknowledge friendship. Through human presence to affirm a life, for twenty short years, lived well.
“Normal” people would call it a party. They’d stay inside where it’s warm and you don’t have to pay attention to the ledge you’re standing on. What I have come to understand is that life is about paying attention. Or it should be. The Rabbi Lawrence Kushner tells the story of Moses and the Burning Bush. But he tells it differently than everyone else. Kushner asks the question, “Why a burning bush?” You are after all, God, right? You can do anything, right? So if you’re trying to get Moses’ attention, why such a cheap trick? Why not something more attention getting? Maybe materialize the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the wing of a 747 Jumbo Jet, that’d be a lot better at getting Moses’ attention that a cheesy burning bush, wouldn’t it?
Kushner concludes that God was not, in fact, trying to get Moses’ attention, rather he was trying to see if Moses was paying attention. He notes that a piece of wood takes 5-7 minutes to fully combust. So anybody can see a “burning bush” and understand it simply as a burning bush… you have to pay attention for more than 7 minutes to have some insight that you might possibly be in some extraordinary presence.
And so we stood on a ledge.
and not inside the Egypt Club.
Because you’re a little bit cold and a little bit scared, at first you can’t really see much. But as you calm yourself, as you slow your breathing, you begin to make out the faint speckles of the lights of Ramallah to the north, and Bethlehem to the south. We pass through our days encountering many people, breathing enormous volumes air, and aware of almost none of it. Tonight we stood on a ledge, powerfully aware of the souls standing next to us, and those beyond, extending off to the horizon. Powerfully aware of of each breath of crisp night air breathing life into our lungs. Tonight we took the time to be alive. Tonight we took the time to truly, deeply perceive the simple experience of our own aliveness.
Happy birthday, Xue.
VB33 – Sugar Mountain
Gallery Xue / Palestine
1 & 2 March 2012
Flickr Iimages: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaneeesab/sets/72157629141479218/