Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Arts Fest and Existentialism

The arts festival is on in Singapore and the last couple of shows have been really thought provoking for me. On Thursday I watched a dance piece called No Direction, by a Japanese company called Nibroll. The show was comprised by vignettes of absurd situations, with people desperately alone but trying to interact and do things together. It seemed like people bumped into one another and somethings aligned physically, but were somehow unable to truly find a direction together. The show was quite humorous, but illustrated the deficiency of human interactions.

Tonight I watched 'Drift', a play directed by Dramabox artistic director, Kok Heng Luen. And this play was about people from two cities, Shanghai and Singapore, and how their lives intertwined over four generations. It was a wonderful piece of theatre, based more on process and the emotional experience. There was a narrative, but it seemed to be more a skeleton to hang the emotional experience, than a narrative that drove the play. In the play there were lovers who were separated due to ideals, mothers and their children, husbands and their mistresses. And a very enigmatic figure, actress Pat Toh, who just stood on top of a dais above the stage for the entire play, emotionless, perhaps like the blindfolded statue of justice holding a set of scales in one hand. This play was more melodramatic than No Direction, but it spoke of people's desires, dreams, fears, promises and fates.

Both performances caused me to reflect on the imperfection of understanding and communication. People are not really evil, in general, but our desires and the logic following our desires may cause us to hurt other people. And it also blinds us to the hurt we visit onto other people. This problematic life seems almost futile. But in my mind, I resolved that regardless of the imperfections, it is better to aspire to live well, to be true to myself and yet respect other people. One cannot stop living life because there may be pitfalls. And one cannot learn about life without making a few mistakes. And one cannot learn from life's lessons unless one is truthful and willing to learn, and to change. I must and do hope for progress.

With global warming, food shortage and an out of control price of oil, times do look bleak. But if we used less fuel, ate less meat, and did not consume so much, a lot of death and suffering can be alleviated. But it is inconvenient for us who have grown accustomed to a comfortable lifestyle. It is hard to make the connection, but our excess is paid for by the suffering and death of other people. We all have this wonderful ability to live in denial, ignore the reality. And even now, the reality is not just in some poor third world countries front lawn, the bad weather and expense of basics is on our front door, and yet we deny it. I guess that if we do live like an ostrich, our heads stuck in the sand, we do deserve our untimely demise. But still, I must and do hope for progress.

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