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I am becoming…

January 19, 2016

I’m becoming my father.

Standing at the hotel reception this morning, chatting, I gestured with my right hand. I saw its movement. It was his gesture, not mine. I remember him doing it. I remember him making exactly that gesture.

I saw it, and experienced it. He is in me. I am becoming him.

It’s not the first time this has happened.

It is no surprise. I have inherited a lot from him – his body type and occasional social awkwardness. His receding hair-line, fearful romanticism and a chronic illness. His darkness and his light.

He was fifty when I was born. I turned fifty eighteen months ago. I am now the age he was when first he entered into my infant consciousness.

In the foyer  I experience him in me. A gesture I saw a thousand times while growing up, I experience from the inside. I experience its motivation and its intention. The self-doubt I guess he must have so often felt, appears in that movement of my hand. Fragments of his inner landscape live in me alongside his other legacies.

I think about my job, as performer, teacher, director. I train to experience the motivations and intentions of people I am not. I imagine and create the ambiguous emotional and psychic swamplands from which someone’s concrete actions emerge. I become other.

To become other I must first become me. I must encounter, experience and try to bring to focus the unknowable drivers of my own actions.

But ‘I’ am not fixed. ‘I’ am becoming. Becoming my father. Becoming myself. Becoming other.

I am changing. Even as I start to seeing something of myself, time passes and I am becoming other. There is no self to see, only a becoming, a being-in-flux. Yet from that slippery ambiguity I craft actions that communicate ‘me’. I craft my life.

It is like sculpting a fast-flowing river.

‘Becoming’ asks me to be generous and to give up certainty. In the foyer, as I see my father – long dead – living still in me, as I experience the echoes of his experience, his childhood, his pain and hope, living still in this cold Stockholm morning, I am a little appalled. I am losing the ‘self’ I thought I was.

Then I realise that I can choose another reaction –  I can be generous to my evolution.

This is, after all, the process of art and my work as an artist: to see the possibility of other in me and to communicate my sense of me to others.

It is a process based in generosity and empathy.

To be creative is to let go of certainty. That is, potentially, a subversive act. It questions the fixedness of  ‘me’ and ‘not-me’, of ‘us’ and ‘them’. It asks how “I’ might – imaginatively at least – become ‘you’. Who would I be if my homeland was bombed and my children faced physical or psychic assault? Would I risk their lives in an overcrowded boat on a dangerous sea? How might I be, if I had lived what ‘you’ have lived? Does the binary of ‘you’ and ‘I’ exist?

Generosity and empathy.

It is no accident, in a time of repression, that the powerful, desperate to keep grip on their iniquitous and sickening privilege, try to co-opt art and artists, or they neuter us by making us ‘legitimate’, or they censor us, or squeeze us into silence with the austere financial tyranny they impose on everyone except themselves.

The powerful do not retain power by encouraging generosity and empathy. They rule through certainty, selfishness and division. The binary of ‘people-like-us’ against ‘the rest’.

Creativity is generous – a giving of unique parts of oneself to the world. It requires the cultivation of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm for oneself. Enthusiasm for others. Enthusiasm for the other in oneself.

It requires an act of becoming.

You see, standing in the foyer this morning, I understood something of my father that I had not understood before. Not perhaps something I can put into words, but something which, now, I know. Things about him which, growing up, appalled and embarrassed me, I now experience in me.

If I choose to reject my father-in-me, then I reject myself. If I choose to be appalled by the things I find inside me, then I am appalled by myself. If I am appalled by what I can imagine, I am appalled by myself. I close down. I lose my generosity. I lose my enthusiasm – because how can I be enthusiastic if I loathe myself? If I loathe myself I will reinforce the boundaries of the limited self I can accept, and refuse to become anything else. I will refuse to become.

When I find the other in myself, I find myself in the other. We become one. I learn empathy.

So I welcome my father in me. I smile at my initial horror and realise that I am swimming with the accelerating current of time. I’m catching up with him.

I realise that I am, in this moment, also a father. I am the father of the man I’ll be ten years from now. I am the child of my forty-year-old self.

I hope my father loved me. I hope he respected me, though I know there were things he did not understand. I hope that I can love and respect the person I am in the process of becoming right now. As a father, I hope I can love the child who is being born from this moment. Not understand perhaps, but unconditionally accept.

To become, from uncertainty into uncertainty – making concrete choices from ambiguous and unknowable possibility. To realise, welcome, that everything is a process of becoming.

I am my own father, and I am becoming another me.

I must be gentle, for birth is a wonderful and terrifying thing. A time of hope and unconditional love.

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