On Being Represented: ¿a Zen koan?
What do I mean by this? Well, we’d spent four hours, the day before, walking in the cloud forest. As I reported then, it was a magical time: filled with silence, with stillness, with what the Ticos call “obscurity.” It also seemed a place throbbing with life—with many layers of life, symbiotic on other layers—but our experience was only of our motion (our own disruptive stumblings along the uneven paths) and occasional brief flutterings of a bird or butterfly.
However, what Capictor depicted—in their very dramatic, very strong performance—was unceasing movement: large figures, all in black, prowling like cats, flying like birds, eating like insects, grooming like monkeys, having sex like all of the above. It was a very sensual, very sexual, very exciting (and somewhat disturbing) performance—well worth seeing. We very much enjoyed being there. But the dance did not at all represent the experience we ourselves had just had, in the same environment which the dance claimed to represent.
So-- four possibilities here (@ least):
(1) The dancers got to layers we weren’t able to perceive. We only saw the surface, and didn’t really experience what there was to experience in the reserve. The blinders of a lawyer and a literary critic were too strong for us to see the reality of the biological world.
(2) Or--maybe the experience of the dancers wasn't either "deeper" or "more authentic." Perhaps, like us, they didn't get very "far," and they filled the “vacio” with their own preconceptions about the hidden, throbbing, symbiotic life of the forest—or with their ideas about what constitutes a good dance. The cloudforest really is not “dramatic” in any easily performable way, and they wanted to make a dance that was dramatic. They certainly made a dance using all sorts of sounds (the music they used was quite dramatic, and quite familiar). And they made a dance using all sorts of movements—a whole cluster of them was East Indian—which seemed to us not to arise from the forest, but rather—perhaps--to be drawn out of the repertoire of movements and sounds they brought with them.
(3) Or maybe we and the dancers had different experiences, which require different representations. Our representation would have been set in green, in obscurity, with only brief glimpses of light. There would have been a lot of stillness, a lot of silence, with only the briefest, and the smallest, gestures of movement possible. Never a whole body; only fingers and toes, occasionally a hand. It would have been a representation that requires lots of patience, a willingness to wait, a willingness to be satisfied with “nothing much” happening.
(4) All these possibilities exist, all of them are true. There’s nothing “beyond” what can be represented. I draw again here on Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe, my current referent point for what’s happening in this world, and its thorough explication of how “the act of measurement is deeply enmeshed in creating the very reality it is measuring.” So, too, is the act of representation deeply enmeshed in creating the reality it represents. The next question then becomes whether this is a statement about wht we can know, or about reality itself. To Niels Bohr (as Greene explains),
Like a Zen koan? Unanswerable? A question that stops the process of questioning?