And yes, he is
certainly a strange person with whom to find some identification! Yet
I find in Nuon Chea the horror of certainty that results from
idealism. A couple of years ago I wrote "to believe is to kill".
The more passionate one's feelings relating to necessity and action:
the more likely the resultant regret! A paradox! The source of
creativity and motivation: also the seed of destruction and death!
The unprovable feeling about the nature of reality, once codified and
elevated as fact, once removed from the sensory and the intuitive;
then the platform for good or evil chosen by chance but weighted
towards the horrific and the dark abyss of illusion and deceit. The
ultimate organization of social and mind control!
There are so
many amongst us who see the edifice of religion as a concrete
construction that weighs down on our consciousness. Yet this is
possibly a mistake in perception as the edifice and the source are
not necessarily the same.
In 1961 I
learnt to serve the Latin Mass. Apart from my father, my prime
teacher of the Mass was Father James Long, an MSC Priest who lived in
the presbytery a hundred metres up a hill from my home. We used to
walk to the church together at 5.30am to offer a Mass at 6.00am. One
day in 1963 he turned to the congregation at the commencement of Mass
Mass will be offered for the repose of the soul of the late John F
Kennedy who was assassinated some hours ago!"
stunned me as I knelt wearing my red and white robes of the altar
server. It cemented that day as a significant moment. Later that
morning I went to Brisbane State High School to complete a music
exam. Forty or so years later, I stood over Father James Long's grave
at Douglas Park near Bowral in New South Wales where the MSC order
still runs retreats and various training programs.
intervening forty years, I had found religion to be a totally
destructive force on human imagination and a socially divisive form
that sought to control every facet of one's psyche. It used guilt and
psychic control to impose its own straight jacket. I had seen a
member of my mother's family being destroyed by the religious
paradigm as she struggled with acceptance following her "mixed
marriage" with a protestant. I had seen members of my extended
family having their lives turned upside down over pregnancies outside
of marriage. I had experienced my father's rejection over my marriage
because it was outside the blessing of the church. The anger I felt
towards the religious basis for horrific social consequences could
only be channelled through political and artistic commitment; a
commitment I gladly assumed.
ambivalence can only be the result of having worked with some of the
warmest hearted people I have ever known; and they happened to be
members or associates of a religious order. It was a Catholic priest
who once offered a mass and proclaimed what we seek is a "face
of love": someone to love us, someone worthy of our love, the
face of beauty that can be there for us in all our experience! This
face being the manifestation of that which cannot be explained: ie.
god! Not some moralistic prick in the sky that offers us wrath and
rewards like punishments and sticky gold stars; not some great ruler
presiding in some invisible castle called heaven; rather a notion of
some principle, some binding connectivity that draws everything into
a constant forever changing milieu; the commonality that connects all
things in existence!
From that one
point, all thought and philosophy and science can proceed in perfect
and logical cohesion and dialectical relationship. The historical
explanations for god and religion are simply semantics and metaphors
framed within the experience and knowledge of the time. But giving
credence to the existence of such binding connectivity is not the
same as promoting fairy tales or the emperors' new clothes of
delusion and illusory realities often adopted by religious dogma.
Both the attackers of religion and the defenders can be correct in
their arguments while both can be equally wrong in providing
seemingly diametric opposition to each other. Such is the arrogance
of the human mind that it can take limited knowledge and
understanding and derive absolute conclusions; making them binding on
hapless followers; imposing regimes of terror to inflict such
punitive actions on society, humanity and even family members!
considering a way through Sacred Fire,
it was necessary to adopt a dialectical approach that gave full
credence to opposition to religion and its hold over the human psyche
while also highlighting the very real and personal struggles of
people within the religious traditions who strove and still strive
whole-heartedly to promote a deeper and meta-understanding of human
existence and action.
centred around the notion of "love" and its possibilities
as espoused by Father Jules Chevalier, the French priest who founded
the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in 1854. His break from dogma
while focusing on the relationship of Jesus and his mother, Mary,
provided a starting point to assess the possibilities of a
re-evaluation of the "all you need is love"
pseudo-philosophies of the 1960s. This re-evaluation could only be
possible in light of the experience of the past two hundred years or so!
who identifies the corrupt nature of society and its organization can
be excused for a feeling of rage against the machine of privilege and
manipulation of populations. The identification of the churches and
the religious with such manipulations must also be recognized. It is
this identification which gives easy virtue to the opponents of
religion in any guise; myself included!
Yet now, my
ambivalence towards all forms of religion is fueled by experience of
the MSC traditions and the work of Fr Jules Chevalier. I can see his
thinking working in the school where his thoughts are taken seriously
by at least some of the staff (not all) and certainly by the
administration. There is a spirit of ecumenism and investigation. It
is possible to discuss and debate in the school issues that are
mostly problematic for religion and religious schools.
certainly was a product of this possibility: a possibility
that could not be tolerated in Government schools nor most religious
schools with their agendas of propagation of particular aspects of faith!
And so the
production could be reflected in both the NOW and the historical! The
now is the school; the historical is history!
With the French
revolution was born the argument that the rights of liberty and the
people could be furthered by the application of tyranny and
oppression. Certainly, the idealism of young revolutionaries such as
Robespierre and Marat in France and later revolutionaries such as Pol
Pot and Nuon Chea in Cambodia affirm this phenomena. The past two
hundred years has been blighted by such warped idealism on a horrific
scale. The simple message of a French priest, Father Jules Chevalier
and his mission of love, needs to be viewed in light of this paradox.
History is not
"out there" but is within us. Sacred
our responses to the refugee and the real world of people and their
aspirations and lives; people from within our families, communities
and throughout the world.
also attempted to highlight the very ethos of the school which is run
by the inheritors of the Jules Chevalier mission. The ideal and the
real do not always coincide. Just as religion and the enlightenment
are bound by tensions which have experienced contradictory consequences.
For my part, I
have certainly been challenged to provide an authentic piece of
community theatre which did not compromise the experience of the
students, the mission of the school and the MSCs and my own sense of
what is important and significant in artistic creation. Judging when
to step back and knowing when to intervene and shape responses has
been something learned over thirty years of creating this kind of
work. But still it brings with it a kind of depression that comes
with one's own impermanence and recognition of change. A project of
this nature cannot be created from ego or vanity or sense of one's
own significance. Rather, it required observation from a distance and
a very strong team of hands-on participation. It was never a case of
forming opinions or agreements or disagreements. Rather it was a
process of considering reasons and social momentums against a
backdrop of actual and real history. It meant constantly challenging
the student actors to consider their role in the story and how it
related to now!
Through the use
of iconography, drama, dance, digital media and music Sacred
Fire attempted to
draw our attention to the conflicts of ideas surrounding and shaping
our experience and our relation to history. It sought to reveal
something of love's necessity for our survival and how, without it,
all idealism is doomed to mirror that of its oppressor.