Edline Jean

Edline Jean, at home. Blanchard, Haiti. May, 2015


Edline Jean, at home. Blanchard, Haiti. May, 2015

I am caught up in a discussion about portrayal versus being. The former, which recently manifests in the good work done by Roger May in Appalachia, leaves me puzzled in relation to this other understanding I have: ‘being’ is, well, not a portrayal.

By not a portrayal, I mean: not dualistic – me looking at (a photograph of) you, you (abstracted in the photograph) looking at me, that there are oppositional truths, one refuting the other. Nor do I mean pluralistic: that there may be several core truths or substances, neither validating or disqualifying the others. And now we begin to feel the problem, I hope. The very idea of portrayal grows from a matrix that forms itself around a blind spot. This matrix, or network of thinking, is made of dualism, pluralism, monism (that there is only a singularity) and all related paradigms. What about the blind spot itself? Zeroism (don’t bother running an online search on this one; no one is home)? Probably. Zen. Or just, Being-ism?

There’s this wonderful joke that ends with ….”the unlightable bareness of Bing.” But I am also thinking of Kundera’s work, to which the joke about Bing Crosby refers, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” I think, in some ways, Kundera may also have being trying to express that blind spot.

The joke goes something like this:

Bing Crosby is preparing for his farewell concert at the Hollywood Bowl. It is a really big deal, with hundreds of glitterati attending and many speeches and accolades planned as a part of the event. The media is hopping. The rehearsals have gone well and Bing’s peers and younger colleagues are rippling with emotion and excitement. This is going to be a great show. The stage crew is pumped and stressed: it is a complex program with many set changes. But Bing is calm, and his usual smooth and professional demeanor is spreading out to those around him.

All is good. Thirty minutes before curtains go up, a message is relayed to the Stage Manager: Bing is insisting that he performs in the nude. Mouths pucker, eyebrows are raised, people nod sagely, and as the message moves through the team, yeah, cool idea, they all say. What a great, and brave way to go out, says the Producer, as she approves. It reaches the Stage Manager, and back comes a firm, no.

Back and forth. People try to change the SM’s mind, but no. No. No. Minutes before the show is scheduled to begin, the Producer, as patiently as possible, but quite annoyed by the SMs stubbornness, asks, why? Well… says the SM, I simply cannot do this – Bing is not made for that kind of exposure… you see, it really is all about the …. and up there, is the punch line. Sorry!