Thursday, October 26, 2017

The unveiling of Proust


Marcel Proust comes to light:
Like all, or most, human beings, the sculpture of Marcel Proust, made by Edgar Duvivier, took nine months of gestation, from the conception of its idea, to its inauguration. Nine months of anxiety causing, vague and slow communication with the local authorities; nine months of suspense.
What if the French people didn't appreciate this type of more casual sculpture, with which people can interact? What if they only liked the traditional way of turning the person, who was the model, into a monument on a pedestal, for being looked up at from below, that is, above the direct reach of people?
I shared Edgar's concern, because his emails to France would takes weeks and weeks to be answered. "When will the inauguration be?" " Where will you place "him?"
One should be ready for any kind of receptivity, from people in Cabourg, and, lo and behold, the returning of Proust to Cabourg was blessed.
Following the warm speech of Tristan Duval, current mayor of Cabourg, the writer and Proustian authority, Gonzague Saint Bris, said he had already seen the statue, and found it a magnificent work, a work that shows the inner and the communicative character of Proust at the same time. Questioning how it had been possible that a dandy, who was illl and in bed, for most of his life, could have aroused passion in the whole world, Gonzague brilliantly concluded that it wasn't for writing general subjects, but because he got closer and closer to himself no -holds-bar, resonating, thus, with the Japonese, the Americans, and people from the whole world. (After all, the Proustian approach to oneself searches the profound self, that which, ignored by most, concerns the essence of each, that is promised and sought after by meditations of all types, transpersonal psychology, Junguian psychology, and New Age).
With the typical daring of French intelligence, which specially harmonizes the intimate and the objective, passion and intellect, M. Saint Bris passed from the historic, psychological and factual dimension, to that of spirit: Declaring the inauguration to be a moment of world communion, he concluded that Edgar, with his ancient, French family name, coming from a family that has been established in Brasil after a few generations, had been chosen, from above, by Proust himself, to make his sculpture and take it to Cabourg.
The statue is endowed with life, not just for its elegant similarity to Proust, but also its interactive nature, with which the French people were immediately familiar, in the wonderful and dynamic possibility of being personal, with it.
Life, in interaction, concerns the requesting of, not only the observation of the spectator, but his immersion in the work's atmosphere. Like it happens in Contemplative Interaction- installation, contemporaneous, art- the spectator contemplates at the same time that the immersion of his presence in the work becomes necessary for it to reveal itself, turning this spectator also into agent.
Beyond immersion in the work, Edgar's sculpture gives the spectator the opportunity to interact with it in a personal way: the possibility, really, of re creating it. Each person can take a self in whichever way he/she wants; each becomes unique, in the particularity of his/her participation, equally making, in what he/she gives off him/herself, the sculpture unique, yet again. The latter, in its generosity to transform each spectator into a creator also, eternally reveals itself. Being constantly created anew and re creating, it expresses the essence of life.
It is with great joy that we thus see the generosity of Marcel Proust being propagated, through that of Edgar, in the statue he gave life to, and now lives at Cabourg's gardens, echoing the immense gift of Proust, in writing a book in which his readers would be also the readers of themselves, as he stated it, that is, would be able to make their own, the revelations of Proust's sublime intelligence.
I think M. Saint Bris is right, when thinking that Proust chose Edgar Duvivier to resurrect his likeness and expression. After we saw many people taking their particular selfies, with it, returning late, to the hotel, we could still spot a couple, French kissing, passionately, by its side. Would it be inspired by the passion of Proust, himself? or by the passion he himself arouses?… Certainly!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Proust and the Real, Transcendent Reality



   Looking at this photo, on the cover of a book written by C Mauriac, "Proust par lui-même", in which the writer has the sweetest and purest expression, one understands, yet again, his being often considered angelic, ( Proust writes like an angel, says Iris Murdoch) and the frequent metaphors of the angelic nature, in his poetic descriptions at the end of which their beauty, delicacy and the purity I believe, in the particular one he mentions the pear trees in flower, that he saw in the "accursed" city, while waiting for Saint- Loup, led him to wonder whether those were not really angels...
This alternation of a higher, ultimately true reality, with the one we take for granted and is in front of our eyes happen often throughout The Search, and make, in my opinion, some of the highest peaks of it... I say amen to flowers being angels, especially at the end of an "angelic" description, of them.
Note that, in this passage, Proust mentions Magdalene's mistaking Jesus for a gardener, that his, mistaking the one who resurrected for a mere mortal man... There is a parallelism with our usual, commonsensical view of flowers as mere plants and overlooking their angelic nature.
The Proustian passage I am referring to was supposed to be happening around this time, Easter. That is also why the writer mentions the resurrected Jesus. I think Proust was so naturally Christian... It just occurred to me that resurrection is another frequent theme through The Search, whether taken metaphorically, as death of an old self and rebirth into a new one; botanically, like when he mentions, thinking of The Search to be written, that he, as a seed, must die so that the fruit can grow out of "him", something that actually, did happen. Proust is essentially Christian because he is self-sacrificial, and he is an angel because he channeled the angelic nature...

Saturday, April 1, 2017

From Imagination to Contemplation to Absoluteness




     Right at the start of his train trip to Balbec with his Grandmother, Proust says that such a trip, on the days he was writing about it,  would be made by car, (on le ferait sans doute aujourd'hui en automobile) in the belief of rendering it more pleasant.  For, a car can make the voyage more realistic, because it allows one to be closer to the path and intimately follow the several gradations through which  the surface of the Earth changes. However, the pleasure of a trip, according to him,  is not that of getting out of the vehicle one is in and stop, whenever one is tired, but to render the difference between one's departure and arrival not just imperceptible,  but as profound as one can, so as to be able to feel it in its totality, intact, just as it was in our thought, when our imagination took us from the place where we lived to the heart of the desired place.  This  leap in space, for Proust,  felt less miraculous for covering a distance between two cities, than for uniting two  distinct individual places of the Earth. The individuality of each place is represented by the train stations, which, like Proust says, are not part of the cities, but contain the essence of these cities' personality, along the name of each. Preferring to go from one "essence" to the other, by leaving "intact" the distance in between them, that is, by being removed from the diversity of such distance's path, Proust expresses his search for absolutes, for what should be in itself, like a wholeness that is independent from what is around, and from what led to it. Essences, or absolutes, cannot be relative to anything. They are "truths" by themselves. They can only be accessed by contemplation, a mode of mind that is alien to considerations of finality, utility and transiency- the main categories of reality-  because it springs from respect, or reverence, recognizing, therefore, only what can be a source of it, that is, only things in themselves: absolutes.  Each train station, as the essence of a city, as an "in itself", is everything one could possibly think and expect of this city at once, that is, regardless of reality and its transiency. Essences, the source of awe, are above the ordinary thought and its sole concern for the real: In fact,  when considering the imaginary transportation from the place one lives to the heart of the desired place, as that which keeps intact and profound the distance in between them, in other words, as that which takes the imagining person from one "essence" to the other, Proust identifies imagination, as the seat of essences, to contemplation, the recognizing of them, and places  both above reality.

  Proust expresses the same search for absoluteness,  when criticizing his time's point of showing certain things,  such as a painting, along with the trivial objects that  surround it in reality. According to him,  such display, unlike those of museums, detracts the artist's act of mind that precisely isolated  his work from the real, eradicating  the uniqueness of such work. Making relative, in other words, that which should be absolute.

  Like Kant, Proust does not believe what is generally considered reality to be ultimately real. But, unlike Kant's  sanctifying of rationality through his  ethics' categorical imperative, the Proustian text can identify  imaginative and contemplative thought to the truth.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Proust and Intelligence

                                                                
   Proust is love of intelligence,

                 Proust is love and intelligence,

   Proust is intelligence of Love!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Proust at the Airport



       
 I turn one more page, marveling at Proust’s courage to face pain; at  Proust’s  Courage, period. In  his text, courage is at one, with intelligence and love.
   I am still on the plane.  But this time,  security didn’t stop me. This time, I wasn’t carrying  the thick, bible like tome  that contains the whole of “A la Recherche du Temps Perdu”, but  an Ipad,  something that, being ridiculously thinner than the printed volume of Proust’s masterpiece, fits it in its gut, along with other literary works. With all of this content, however, the apple gadget is not impenetrable to the X-Ray, like  the thick book was, according to the airport police from whom I found this out, the third time my carry on was over searched.  I thought it was rather funny, and metaphorically fitting,  that Proust’s work was impenetrable to technology, since it literary is, for so many people.  But rather than funny, it was ironic that  an iPad  made it “accessible” to technology.  I know that Proust, originally, wanted the whole of his definitive work to be in one volume, like the one I had been carrying, and he obviously wanted it this way for a reason.  Rather than a sequence with beginning and ending,  “A La Recherche…”  has the continuity of a circle, in which beginning and end meet, and of which any part is self-sufficient, rather than a mere transition of the work’s development.  “ A la Recherche…”  is a continuum, just like the long Proustian sentences,  that, unlike a straight line, which is the shortest way between two points, take  a long sinuosity before going back to their original point.  With the wholeness and self-sufficiency of circularity, the Proustian text  should not be sliced up, or discontinued by the separations that exist between volumes.  It makes total  sense to hold all of it between one’s hands, having all of  its parts equally present in the same accessible and touchable unity.  But what about their being invisible in a flat device, among other  “books”?  How would Proust take it? How would the hypersensitive writer,  who valued the individual copy of  a book one reads a text in, as much as the content of such text, like he expresses, when talking about  that volume his mother read François le Champi to him, considering a million of particular, concrete details of it, like its color, as components of  its meaning, from the associations one had when reading it, to the person one was at the time …? Wouldn’t it be an offense, or vulgarization, to stuff his masterpiece in a device that needs no individual volume for each time it reproduces anew any section of the novel? How would someone who was so at one with the heart, in his faithfulness to the  concreteness of each moment-  the physical dimension of reality- to the point of reaching essence through object sensations,  feel about such invisible, practically abstract, condensation?
    Proust is ambivalent towards technology. If on one hand, he is poetically awed by it ,  comparing, for instance, the operators of the recently invented telephone to mythological creatures,  or attributing this same mythical reality to the airplane he first saw flying over him and his rearing horse. On the other hand, when such poetic dimension is missing, he can also be horrified with new inventions, declaring he is not made for such a world, like he does, when revisiting Le jardin de femmes, at the Bois de Boulogne, and seeing, instead of the carriages of the past, the newly invented automobile . Along this line, he also accuses, through the person of his revered grandmother, who is for him a model of good taste,  the vulgarity of mechanical reproduction, and that of utilitarianism, which is, really, the reason for technology. The grandmother, and Marcel, for that matter, live in the world of contemplation, not usefulness, that of respect for the object in itself, rather than that of its enslavement  for use. Thus, the grandmother prefers to give as a present, an antique chair that  is to fragile to stand the weight of its recipient, to be “used”, that is, but that, as an antique, stimulates the imagination; has stories to tell. In this light, it is fair to say that usefulness is “vulgar”, and Marcel, in fact, accuses the vulgarity of photography’s mechanical reproduction, when explaining that his grandmother would rather give him paintings of the places he was curious to see,  than photographs of them. 
    Digital devices are the epitome of mechanical reproduction. They reproduce any page of  anything to the touch of a finger, and, to another touch, make it go back to invisibility, to giving up its slice of space of the world. They reproduce anything, apparently out of nothing, as well as send it back to an apparent nothingness.  This power of reproduction, in this sense,  concerns some sort of corruption , a robing  of the most fundamental right from what it reproduces: the right of occupying a visible space of the world, and be constantly visible and touchable.   
   Obliterating the physical space a book full of pages would take, or reducing it to an invisible minimum inside the device, it also diminishes the time one takes to read it,  by serving, in one goal,  as dictionary, book of notes,  file of all the sentences  one underlines, and more. Everything, again, stored into invisibility, but available, not really  to the touch of one’s finger, like a page made of paper is to  the grasping of one’s hand,  but to  the invisible electricity mediating this touch. Not so warm to the skin, its responsiveness is also quicker than that of physical contact, making pages appear and disappear  in a flash, when one least expects,  from accidental , inadvertent skin contacts with  the “black mirror”.
   A bunch of pages have now hysterically succeeded one another under my eyes, and I don’t even know which one I was on,  and what I have done wrong… and I get to hate  my device, as much as I  also hate my incompetence to figure out extra text, omnipresent icons, to totally oblige the exactness of the gadget’s mechanism,  over the looseness of organic movement;  the harsh  of programing, over the endlessness of freedom. Yet, I have to recognize it allows me to  have, at my disposal,  the whole of A la Recherche and other titles, without  being searched by the police, without carrying  the heavy weight all those books would take,  and without having  to keep an additional book for my notes. I have to recognize, in a few words, how useful the damned thing is.  It sure obliterates the right of each page’s physical, fixed space, and the time  spent in the physical manipulating , and searching in, a paper book, for the notes and whatever the reader personally requests from it, blowing to pieces the  conditions of concreteness that form the altar of existence, for the sake of pure, profane, utilitarianism.


   I think I have a hint of what Proust may think of such digital device, just like I know how he referred to utilitarianism.  I still swallow the profane nature of its efficiency;  I still carry my gadget,  to read  A la Recherche, and not have the airport police stop me. 
Forgive me, Marcel Proust!

Friday, October 28, 2016

THE CONSTANT PRESENCE OF GOD IN PROUST's MASTERPIECE


  




I stopped reading Mauriac's book on Proust,  when he said that God is absent from a "A la Recherche..." .  It is rather "blind" to not "feel" the divine dimension, if for just a hint of it, in Proust's text, beginning with his recognizing and sharing of beauty,  with the immense depth and generosity  of his thought. 
It should be also considered that, in often placing the truth of the heart over that of facts, ie. the intensity of a subjective state, over that of objective reality,  the Proustian text asserts the  value of authenticity over that of objetive reality; individual essence, or soul, above transience. In believing that  there is an individual truth to each of us (some are lucky to discover "the hour of truth" before that of death, according to him) Proust identifies this truth to  the book each is intended to write and "has already been written", inside of us, that is, to a work of art that precedes us, and to an essence, at the same time. What we have to do is to decipher what is deep inside, and transcends, therefore, the possibility of our coming to fulfill it; what can only belong to the order of spirit.  
   Proust gives the reader the opportunity of experiencing  the divine presence for himself, rather indoctrinating the latter with a mere concept, of it. He doesn't spell the word G O D, because he doesn't need to. Proust is all words and, at the same time, the overcoming of words. Through his text, he takes the readers by the hand through his deepest spiritual experience, allowing them to make this experience their own and soar high above, with him. But if he'd asserted his faith directly,  he would have committed, to use his words, a "grand indelicatesse". He would have written a book that would be like an object with a "price tag on", to use, again, his words. Metaphors, which are often used in Proustian descriptions, assert nothing directly, escaping, thus,  the one sidedness of concepts; they are transmitted to the heart.  It is also transmitted from heart to heart, Proust's departing from the most personal and concrete element,  his individual  experience, in a  confessional style that is a giving of  the very best of himself; the effort and search of "his" truth, in a poetic exuberance of  thought, that makes it universal. More than universal, his sentences, and the whole of his text, have the cosmic circularity that makes it self-sufficient. In it,  the use of metaphor,  as well as the  intimate relating of the narrator's personal life, are equally fundamental traits  of Proust's style, and equally point to his faithfulness to the physical dimension of reality, he goes from the small and the apparent simple, to the great; from brief facts to the endlessness  of essence, from amorality to sanctity, from matter to spirit.
Through the Proustian "lenses" the reader sees, in his own self, depths that he would never have been aware of without these "lenses";  the depths of his own soul. Identifying individual truth to essence, and to artistic creation,  Proust transmits the divine presence, that which is sublime and above factuality, much more than the word "God" would. 
   Here are examples of the evoking of  religions dimension, through the poetic beauty of Proust's words:  In Le Côte de  Guermantes, after a long, descriptive passage  of pear trees the narrator contemplates,   he compares their white flowers  to angels, mentioning even a biblical story:  "Ces arbustes que j'avais vu dans le jardin, en les prenant pour des dieux étrangers, ne m'étais-je pas trompé, comme Madeleine quand, dans un  autre jardin..... elle vit une forme humaine et "crut que c'etait le jardinier?  Gardiens des souvenirs de l'age  d'or, garants de la promesse que la realité n'est pas ce qu'on croit, que la splendeur de la poésie, que  l'eclat merveilleux de l'innocence peuvent y resplendir et pourront être la recompense que nous nous efforcerons de mériter, les grandes créatures blanches....... n'était-ce pas plutôt des anges?"
  The miracle of beauty is the transmission of a reality so much higher and intense that it dims everything that is not part of it. Thus absolute, it speaks for God. Speaking for Him is the most powerful quality of Proust's words,   his sharing his awareness of the divine presence. 
   This Presence is also expressed in Proust's talking, through Swann, about "la petite phrase", coming to the breath- taking conclusion that,  "Peut-être est-ce le néant qui est le vrai et tout notre rêve est-il inexistant, mais alors nous sentons qu'il faudra que ces phrases musicales, ces notions qui existent par rapport `a lui, ne soient rien non plus. Nous périrons, mais nous avons pour otages ces captives divines qui suivront notre chance. Et la mort avec elles a quelque chose de moins amer, de moins inglorieux, peut-être de moins probable." In not asserting directly the existence of an after life,  Proust, yet again, leaves the  hinting of it to be experienced by  the reader  himself:  the conviction that death cannot put an end to  "ces captives divines", these messengers of God; the spiritual reality which is above everything:   "Swann n'avait donc pas tort de croire que la phrase de la sonate existat réellement." and, "...ele appartenait pourtant `a une order de créatures surnaturelles..." The pungent experiencing of what Proust generously transmits is, much beyond a proof, or a mere assertion of the divine presence, the evoking of Its reality. 
   Identifying, as mentioned again, artistic creativity to the truth of the essential order; the timelessness of the divine, Proust doesn't make of it an indoctrination.  With the same humbleness and generosity, he offers the reader, instead, the experience of such identification, when eloquently saying: 
"... au fond the quelles douleurs avait-il (Vinteuil)  puisé cette force de Dieu, cette puissance illimitée de créer?"
Divine presence and  that which is the source of creativity, our highest self, are at one, giving us the precious clue to fulfill God's ways to one and each of us.







Friday, September 23, 2016

Proust in the Jungle








   The shapes on the ground were suggestive, but unrecognizable and constantly shifting, in the dark of the wee hours of the night, the density of the vegetation, my disorientation, and the pulsating of Ayahuasca in my whole being, after the ritual I had just been part of, in that  Indian Village at the Brazilian limit with Peru. I couldn’t know what I was stepping on, what I was exactly seeing, and where I was really going. Everybody else had been well enough to retire for the night into their hammocks, but I was far from done with purging, and had to keep going back to one of those exiled holes the Indians make on the ground to use as latrines, and that are barely encircled by wooden, irregular and flimsy walls. 
   Not having a “normal” bathroom to rely upon, plus the lack of privacy and proper hygiene that may result from it, had been the reasons I never went to the music festivals of another tribe I knew, that is also located in the Amazonia.  But then I met Benki. Ethereal,  with a grace that seemed to exude from a spiritual focus in his every  gesture, position, or words, Benki was totally himself at the same time that he seemed to be carried away with something much beyond his person. He was like a crystal and also a reassuring, strong presence; a crystal whose delicate surface is the most transparent, and yet refracts rainbows from the light it meets with; it was impossible to not believe in all the super natural stories Benki told us about his village, his healing power, his clairvoyance.  Because of a happy coincidence, one of the times I visited family, in Brazil, he could stay at my brother’s house in Rio de Janeiro, and spent some individual time with us and a few of our closest friends. Looking at me, he said I was a medium and had to develop it, otherwise I could be “charged”. I had already participated in many Ayahuasca rituals, conducted by the other Indians I knew, and had the  most amazing revelations, with no previous diet other than abstain, on the day of it, from medicines and alcohol.  But Benki didn’t seem to make much of it, and  said he would put me in the proper Ayahuasca diet and teach me, if I went to spend a week in his village. Thinking I would never be able to go to the jungle,  I still remembered Kierkegaard’s declaration that he would travel to the ends of the Earth to meet someone like “the Knight of Faith” he describes so well, and I considered myself happy for just having met someone in whose presence I found myself instantly lifted by faith and, going or not to his village to learn with him,  I was sure I would do everything I could for my two young adult kids to be once in his presence.  Then, I didn’t know that it is easier for Benki to leave the jungle for one of the capitals of Europe- having become such an important figure in the ecological world scene- than for anywhere in Brazil.  When he finally allowed us to go to his village, we arrived some days later than our proposed date, and Benki was very busy with a television team that was there making some sort of documentary, but still, he received us with warmth and invited us to participate in all the activities that were going to be filmed, beginning with the Ayahuasca ritual, that very night.  
   As inconceivable as it had been for me to go the Amazonia, when I first thought of it, this time, before taking the trip, I stopped myself from thinking anything other than getting there, and, as if by miracle, was instantly filled with an irrational and unquestionable motivation, of which a big part was to take my yoga and mystic oriented children with me. It had been a tough trip, through which we had to take an array of different means of transportation, and after an Ayahuasca ceremony under the starriest sky I had ever seen, there I was, desperately trying to devise in the darkness one of those “outhouses”, after having taken a few steps away from the open porch of Benki's house, where my hammock was set in between those of my two kids, along with others, belonging to local Indians .  That  repeated back and forth, the constant getting in  the hammock, praying it was over, only to rush out of it again with  small flashlight and toilette paper in hand, as quietly as possible to not wake up others, as I meandered my way out amidst their hammocks, was becoming a torture.   Reaching the “hole”, not only was I obliged to overcome my repulsion at squatting over the smell of other’s waste, placing my feet among residues of disposed paper,  insects, dry leaves, and whatever else I preferred to not identify, but modesty, need of privacy,  “civilized” hygiene,  and the fear of how that predicament was gonna end,  demanding from me an overcoming of my whole person in its reliance on habits of the past, and taking for granted expectations of  more easiness, for the most trivial of human functions. It was useless to lament not being able to devote my attention to the revelations Ayahuasca would bring into my mind- just like it did at the beginning of the ritual- if I didn’t have to be in that constant, urgent, motion.  To top it all, I got lost in one of those ventures, seeing neither “outhouse”, nor the side of the porch I had come from, no matter how many times I turned the flashlight in every possible direction, while animals went on with their plights, like the cacophany of frogs, the crickets’ syncopated marking of time,  the grunting of some boar like creature nearby,  and the forlorn chant of a rooster. Images of me  being exiled there for the rest of the night, exposed to possible snakes and  being devoured by mosquitoes, to say the least, filled my head, along with the shame of being eventually found  in pathetic distress…  I could not… I ordered myself to not despair and took a deep breath, giving it all up to Ayahuasca. “Whatever happens in or of a ritual is part of it”,  I remembered hearing the first shaman we knew say, during an  Ayahuasca ceremony.   Having  to overcome revolt, being exposed, the horror of shitting in a hole, and  the difficulty of managing, with shaking hands, toilet paper, flashlight, attack of mosquitoes in foul smell, was then Ayahuasca’s lesson to me. The vine of the soul despises nothing, in the same way it often brings visions of the sublime and the grotesque “hand in hand”, as if redeeming all chasms,  just like making shit and vomit be as natural as the sublime view of the stars above; physical and spiritual reality, gruesome and poetic images reconciled, in the cosmic power it has to obliterate patterns of measure, labels,  the relativity of comparison and opposition, and any other limits of our finitude -bound perception of reality.  Ayahuasca’s unrestrained freedom to put down all these mental crutches through which we see the world, rendering each of its  revelations absolute, can only be love, the magic wand under whose touch a mere one- among- many is revealed unique, unrelated and whole; I had to recognize and trust this indiscriminate generosity of the plant medicine, I had to leave everything up to it right then... An instant reassurance  took over me, right before my coming to identify the corner of the looked-for porch, and became able to retrace my steps,  before having to re start it all over again, with the hope of finally being able to settle down. And still, by what felt like the millionth time stepping back into my hammock, I realized I had to return into the wild yet again, and could no longer care about finding the outhouse.  Any tree behind which I could squat should do, if I managed to get to one. As for disposing of the toilette paper, a depression in the land, filled with other residues and dry leaves, was providentially revealed to my eyes. After another three or four more incursions out there, my stomach finally settled and, back to my hammock,  I zipped up its mosquito screen over me yet again. By then, no more visions were coming to my mind, and, in sheer physical fragility and nervous sensitivity, I could not manage to abstract myself from the spookiness of the ongoing chant of the rooster, a co co ri co that was invariably followed by a plaintive, even painful whine, the sound of which I had never heard before. The  ducks, in the open area by the porch, were constantly picking at one another and repeatedly crashed on the side of our slightly elevated floor, producing, with their clumsy and failed attempts to climb on it, a reverberating,  absurdly aggressive noise,   as if the house was being punched by some gigantic, invisible, haunting fist, the evoking of which gave those birds a perverse dimension. They couldn’t be just dummy ducks falling short of their target. No animal, out of domestic limits, is just a creature that can be explained away by our utilitarian  ends;  I was sure there was mystery inside each  and all around them, some sort of atavist secret that our tyrannical commitment to survival entitles itself to ignore, as it blindly  appropriates a right to profanation of everything the respect of which clashes with our material needs. It says that a duck is a duck and is eatable, period. But the sound every one of those birds made transmitted to me an eerie misery,  worse of all, the whining of the rooster. I could hear no more, I wanted to improve its life and I couldn’t.  In a few hours, a celebratory party would start some distance from there, and all the Indians would be up and about, to dance, drink the “Caiçuma”  beverage they prepare, and sing until the following day. Depleted, I wanted to be asleep by the time the first one of them awoke, but I couldn’t stop myself from mentally following the insistent chant of the rooster every time it first started, in expectation and dread of the final lament, that infallibly followed. “Not this time”, I would think, at the hearing of its first notes, to no avail. Morning was in progress already, why didn’t it shut up?
 Then, I remembered.  My  iphone. I would listen to the recording it has of Proust’s masterpiece, just like I had done at that God forsaken little town we had to spend the night at- after having been twelve hours up the river, under the hottest sun, in the precarious boat we’d hired, with a poor engine and bad driver to boot- before proceeding the trip to Benki’s village.  An open place with a roof, from which one could hang one’s hammock, had been shown to us then, by a skinny guy who had been on the shore, when we arrived, and, almost incapable to believe that some non local  people had travelled there at all, generously cooked us a meager dinner, delighted to find out, from my gringo looking son, what  “mystery” had taken us to that end of the world.
   Our sleeping place was next to a little chapel, where a driven evangelic minister was indoctrinating the innocents with the supposed demands of Jesus Christ, of whom he talked with the assertive impunity of mediocrity, as if relating a chit -chat with someone he’d just had a beer with. In his mouth, Jesus was merely that which made him feel important, over bearing, self-righteous, and incredibly stupid. I could not listen to the influence of that self-interested presumptuousness, over the vulnerability of primitive people, and peacefully drift into sleep, especially remembering that the presence of Benki, in his harmony with spirit, transmits an incorruptibility that, without his ever having to pronounce the name of our Lord,  he made me more of a fully believing Christian, than any indoctrination could ever do.  I thanked God I could listen to Proust and obliterate the minister. And the passage that came to my ears was about Marcel’s describing a duchess he was in love with. Admiring her, whom he could watch  before her mirror, from his window, he says, “ et dans l’oubli mithologique de sa grandeur native, elle regardait si sa voilette etait bien tirée, aplatissait ses manches, ajustait son manteau, comme le cygne divin fait tous les mouvements de son espèce animal, garde ses yeux peints des deux côtés de son bec sans y mettre  de regards et se jette tout d’un coup sur un bouton ou un parapluie, en cygne, sans se souvenir qu’il est un Dieu.” ( “in  the mythological forgetfulness of her innate greatness, she would check whether her veil was straight,  flatten her sleeves, adjust her overcoat, like the divine swam makes all the movements of his animal  species, keeps his eyes painted on both sides of  his beak  without having  to look at it,  and  all of a sudden throws itself  on  a button or an umbrella, as a swam, without remembering he is  a  god”). 
   Even though, Proust recognizes that his imagination, in search of perfection, saw transcendental dimension in the most carnal of his desires, he nonetheless comes to the conclusion that, in the search for love, we do attach the loved person to divinities, and can thus people our world with them.  He was able to worship humans with words that, on account of their beauty,  were truer than factuality; they did reveal the finger prints of God on the person he loved. In relating to the divine, they were certainly more convincing, more transcendent, in their poetic power, than those of that evangelic priest, who sounded completely devoid of any reverence, or devotion. In his mouth, Jesus’ humanness was the license he entitled himself with to express a sentimental closeness to the Messiah, in order to collect money from  the audience.
   Jesus was human and he constantly mentioned it, in his generosity to share his closeness to the Father with all of us.  “Father, why have you forsaken me?” He says, at the peak of a human suffering he had no qualms to express. 
    “The flesh is weak”, but its sacrificial nature, its possibility of surrender to the  divine is the strength of the human.
   Good-bye evangelic priest, and forgotten little village on the way to Benki; I managed to fall asleep, and we had already crossed the limit with Peru in the river, inside the boat, with no problem. On the following day, we should arrive at the Indian village, of which Benki is the leader. 
   Now I was there, still resorting desperately to Marcel Proust’s words, the hearing of which, then, felt more healing than the inspiration of shamanism, especially as I chanced upon one of the passages Proust transmits the absoluteness of individuality; what corresponds to that dimension of novelty, before which one has to be disarmed; free of mental concepts that are prior to its perception, because, “notre esprit attentive a devant lui l’insistence d’une forme don’t il ne poss`ede pas l’equivalent intellectual, don’t il lui faut dégager l’inconnu.” (  “ our attentive mind has, before it, the insistence of a form of which it has no intellectual equivalent,  of which it has to detach the unknown”)…“dans la collection de nos idées, il n’y en a aucune qui reponde `a une impression individuelle. “ ( “ in the collection of our ideas, there is none that responds to an individual impression”).  
   This was related to the difference Proust experienced between the first time he went to watch the great actress he named “Berma”, and the second.  Eager to appreciate her talent at first, he missed it, precisely because he was so intent on separating it from the role the actress was playing, having, in his mind, ready to be applied to it, prior ideas of what a great talent should be. But, at watching her play the same role for the second time, when he was no longer expecting great revelations from it, he “got” what he had once missed, because, to put it simply, he was no longer “armed” with those mental concepts to fit over what was, until then, “unknown”. 
   The need of disarmament Proust is so aware of for the perception of individual impressions, that can only be gotten from what life presents as absolutely new and, in its surprise, unstained from mental projections, concerns the same nakedness Ayahuasca reduces one to, for its revelations. Proust attained it with his otherworldly intelligence, and, as the narrator of “ A la Recherche…”, lived in the world of essences, of that which is in itself, rather than in relation to anything else. It is the world of respecting, rather than using, prayer-like appreciation, instead of taking for granted, letting go, in the place of projecting. Proust’s mental disarmament is his  courage and humbleness to be open to that which, being until then unknown, represents a threat to the common, repetitive perception we make of reality, which  is built upon prior expectations and concepts we have that, like a formula,  give us the illusion we can mold what is to come, and be protected from unpredictability. From the language of God, really.  
   God will not talk to one’s “protected” person, nor will Ayahuasca. 
To put down the arms of the mind is to disclose oneself to the humbleness and surrender of genuine prayer. 
  
   Before falling asleep, I could see Benki go by, heading to the Caiçuma party. Dressed in  full regalia, he  was so graceful and unaffected, moving swiftly, as if every part of his body was weightless, floating in the air,  somehow,  carried by his mission, which the elements around him seemed to be aware of.   I once thought that Indians, unlike us, “civilized”, coexist with the trivial and the sacred naturally and simultaneously. Civilization, on the contrary,  asserts what is through what is not, and vice-versa, making opposition the core of the whole edifice of its thought. It opposes magic to science, soul to body, spirit to matter, just like it puts discipline and duty on one side, informality and fun on the other. 
   Benki was on his way to oblige a ritualistic behavior- the most  serious of duties- as well as to be festive. The “civilized” mind blindly ignores that real fun, a state of gratefulness to life, is something very serious.  The Caiçuma party was everything. I was happy to watch Benki go by, and happy to finally feel independent, from him. 
   Lessons are given from  what one least expects to learn, just like, in communion with Ayahuasca, the circumstances around a Shaman can speak for themselves and bring, to someone much needing them, the words and inspiration of Marcel Proust.