Monday, 5 May 2014

Simon Russell Beale's King Lear, and mindfulness: Trigonos experience part II

The evening before arriving at Trigonos, I watched the live telecast from the National Theatre's "King Lear," with Simon Russell Beale as he who had to be mad before he could be sane.

I've seen a few in me time, taught it, thought about it.   I think this production is the best I've seen, a huge achievement, taking in the vast range of the play. Salute the cast and their director for the power and scope of the journey they take us on.

"He hath ever but slenderly known himself," says Regan, in one of those withering little comments from the heart of domestic as well as political resentments. Mindfulness should help us know ourselves, I thought later. 

But who does? 

We were warned gently, at Trigonos, that extended periods of meditation could bring up powerful feelings unexpectedly.

I'm sitting calmly in meditation, after a discussion in which someone in the group mentions some real pain she has gone through and is going through. From nowhere - bang! - comes the line from the depth of suffering in "King Lear."

"I know thee well enough; thy name is Gloucester."

My eyes fill up and spill over. All the grief we carry for each other, all the cruel arbitrariness of suffering and death. 

Where did this surge of grief come from, in this peaceful, beautiful place, light years from the drama of a mad old king and a blinded, deluded Earl?

"Thou must be patient; we came crying hither..."

For the rest of the day, those two ruined old heads leaning against each other won't leave me alone.

"I know thee well enough; thy name is Gloucester."

Don't tell me "it's only a play." It's a touch-stone of our humanity, it's the depths, and the heights in Cordelia's instantaneous forgiveness: "No cause, no cause."

If meditation is to do its job for us, it's hard work, really hard work sometimes.

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