a momentary disintegration
November 10, 2011 § 2 Comments
Old friend, you are missed! I hope this note finds you well.
Last night I was out very late, first standing, then sitting, and then nearly sleeping next to strangers at Sproul Plaza in Berkeley. I came home around midnight or so, I’d say, though I was unable to sleep for quite some time because of the unfolding events of the evening. Things began in Oakland, as they for me so often do. There was a highly contentious anti-vandalism/anti-violence proposal being pitched at Oakland Commune’s General Assembly and the all-hands-on-deck vibe was justified by the new faces in attendance who were carrying placards pleading sympathy with the Occupiers alongside disappointment. (“Oakland’s 99% Feels Occupied by the Occupiers,” etc.) As I sat through the interminable proceedings (they always are, in my opinion, but so it is w/ these things), smelling the quite lovely food being served over my shoulder, I was sent the following video filmed in Berkeley earlier that afternoon.
While I watched the above scene on my phone, I could hear in the Oakland amphitheater words like “vandalism” and “violence” being tossed around as though they were indistinguishable, or at least conversational kin. I was disturbed by the contrast between the muted images on my small screen & the din of good intentions playing out in large all around me. I lingered for a while, but eventually left.
I knew where I was going but was, nevertheless, surprised when I ended up in Berkeley, walking quite hurriedly to Sproul Plaza, where I was greeted, though the cry was obviously not intended for me, “MEDIC! WE NEED A MEDIC!” Someone had been hurt in the police melee that had occurred minutes before my arrival. I do not know how badly she was injured, but she was ushered away quickly. There seemed more anger prevalent than fear on the part of the crowd, though their numbers were not as large as I’d expected. I’m not a particularly brave person, as you well know. Nor, am I an adrenaline junky. I was not interested in being arrested or taking on more tear gas or once again being shot at by non-lethal projectiles. So, yes, I was rather afraid.
Fortunately, the numbers soon increased, dramatically so. Until eventually I could become a part of the crowd. And it was within this crowd, though I cannot place the moment itself, that I realized, despite what I recall recently telling you, I’m not seeking a cause with which to align myself so much as I am seeking an occasion to become strictly a body. I live so much in words. I feel awkward, even with people I know & love, when standing in the flesh, face to face, being seen. I have a confidence with verbal and written expression that I do not in my physical individuality & the space I cut in this world alone. What I want of a crowd, whose motivations, though myriad, are directed against or toward — in a kind of strange harmony, a music to which you would not listen for leisure — that which we may not know or be willing to say by name, is a momentary disintegration — a burning away of myself until all that is left is the presence of a body, not even a voice, in protest. That alone.
I should think not everybody has, or should have, this admittedly retrograde Romantic desire. But I confess it here, to you, though I feel no guilt.