The Group Monthly Letter - Do I still believe?
I wrote these words a few years ago. Some people think that words are cheap and I suppose that’s the gossiping kind you find in the Press. But what of writers, authors and poets? Do we write cheap words?
Way back in 2011 Chris and I published a book called ‘Translating the Invisible Wind’.
It makes the case for a Spirituality of Resistance and it reads something like this:
“A Spirituality of Resistance works in a subtle, subversive way, not through the edifice, but underground, in a way undetectable by the censors and prohibitors of our faith. In this way we can capture the imagination of those outside our common-unity and thus cause the ultimate downfall of the opposing ‘stronghold’ or edifice. Art works best in the margins, not at the soft-centre of some institution or other.”
Hall, Geoff (2012-07-23). Translating the Invisible Wind (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 228-231). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.
It was fuelled by writers like Jacques Ellul (a member of the French Resistance) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a member of the German Resistance) along with filmmakers such as Tarkovsky and Kieslowski, who worked tirelessly against the censors of the (Soviet) Communist regime – and still managed to communicate with their audience. This was an audience of the disaffected, of those caught in the web of despair generated by the Communist Regime.
There are rumours, suggestions that Tarkovsky’s cancer was a result of poisoning, perhaps during the filming of ‘Stalker’. His work had a cost; it was not a cheap display of affectatious self-expression, otherwise known these days as ‘artistic freedom’.
It’s a lesson for us all, that to reach the disaffected and despairing there will be a cost. Resistance doesn’t come through isolation or a desire to protect our supposed moral superiority. It doesn’t come through anything which is institutionalised, be that spirituality, democracy, freedom or art. Hans Rookmaaker wrote that we should,
“never be conservative simply for the sake of conformity, of conserving the established order for its own sake. We must be critical.” (‘Modern Art and the Death of a Culture’, p158)
Words, like images are costly to produce if they are to be critical of the status quo, to have the effect of the prophets of old, in shaking the powerful and ruining the institutions of conformity.
So, Do I still believe? Well, during the years which have followed the publication of this book, I have been de-institutionalised, set free from the purveyors of conformity. For Chris and I what this means culturally is that, like the resistance of old, we are cave dwellers; we hide away in obscure valleys, eking out a life of ‘dissatisfied coping’, as Brueggemann put it. Aiding those we come across who may be harassed, despairing or abused, who suffer the disorientation of the wilderness. And so far that’s all we do.
Chris and I are embarking on a project for the mainstream rather than the niche market of ‘Translating’. We understand that there are more people on the margins than in the soft-centre of the aforementioned institutions. It has meant a commitment to each other which so far hasn’t borne any fruit (save for 80,000 words) and has not had any effect on the cultural landscape.
And yet we continue to trust that this new novel when published later this year, will have an impact. Do we still believe? Yes. ‘Translating the Invisible Wind’ has led us here. For a spirituality of resistance is not an ethereal thing, a dream wherein we are an integral part of the cultural dreamscape, but it is a lived-out critique of the status quo and the injustice it breeds. We are aiming for the cultural landscape and its myriad conversations and not the private language of the sub-culture.