A Brief Report on the Conference “That Good May Become!”
by Bruce Donehower
In August 2023, Marion and I traveled to Manitoba, Canada to perform at the Festival of Initiative sponsored by the Canadian Anthroposophical Society. Our contribution to the conference included our inter-Sectional presentation of the Novalis fairytale Hyacinth and Rosebud. The Section for the Visual Arts and the Section for the Literary Arts and Humanities partnered to offer this performance on Saturday, August 12.
Under the wise artistic guidance of Regine Kurek from Toronto, students from the Arscura School and participants at the conference created lovely banners that were used in the performance of the fairytale by Novalis. Regine, like many at the conference, has a great sense of humor; she’s the one who came up with the tagline “Chaos & Kosmos” to describe the very flexible, sociable, collaborative, unselfish, artistic attitude that the circumstances inspired. Marion and I felt embraced by light and color as we performed for the conference at Fraserwood Hall in Fraserwood, Manitoba on Saturday night, August 12.
Joke: A young violinist walks up to the Maestro and says: “How do I get to Fraserwood Hall?” Maestro shrugs and answers: “50°38’22″N 97°13’13″W?”
Thanks to the talent of many artists, the unflagging Herculean efforts of Kim Hunter, the awesome sound engineering talents of Greg Pauker, and the good will of all the stalwart participants at the conference, the performance went very well.
The Healing Art of Fairytale
If you’ve been following this Section website, you’ll know that the fairytale of Hyacinth and Rosebud by Novalis is the first performance video by Section artists. The video premiered at the beginning of the Covid crisis in summer 2020, when Novalis first connected with our Section work in Northern California. The fairytale performance video features original translation and music by me, Bruce Donehower, and original artwork by Marion Donehower, and speech artistry by Margit Ilgen and Marion Donehower.
This festival in Manitoba was the first live performance of the fairytale, however. It was a world premiere! And what better place than right smack dab in the middle of the North America continent!
A Successful “Creating Together” Effort / A Hope for Future Inter-Sectional Collaborations!
When the idea for the performance came about, we originally envisioned this performance as a collaboration between four Sections: Literary Arts and Humanities, the Visual Arts Section, the Science Section, and the Performing Arts Section. And, we originally intended to present the long and operatic fairytale Eros and Fabel from the novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen — but that was too much, given the vast distances and many unknowns. So we scaled back to Hyacinth and Rosebud, which was already rehearsed and could be performed no matter what.
The event on August 12 at Fraserwood Hall was more representative of a New Moon Salon than grand theater. We tried to recreate the mood and ambiance of the salons that Marion and I regularly offer at our Section meetings in California — that is to say: an intimate, colorful, personal evening of spoken word, art and music and poetry. The evening included a brief lecture (“Why Should I Care About Novalis?? Dude!”) and poetry, violin and guitar music, and artistic spoken narration.
Everyone is a Novalis . . .
I began the evening on August 12 by reciting the opening speech from Act 2 of Shakespeare’s As You Like It — and then I told the audience members that they had all earned the right to name themselves “Novalis”. — since, as we know, the pen name “Novalis” means “person of initiative” — and only persons of initiative were at the Festival of Initiative. Everyone else stayed home. So there you go! It’s as you like it!
Children of old!
Arise to creation!
A new day unfolds!
War and strife are ended.
“Out of many: one.”
I spin as I have threaded.
Life shall overcome.
Indra’s net is woven.
In each, behold the All.
“One life, one heart, one heaven!”
Thus, surging spirit calls.
Soul, dream, and magic—
Thou art the Three-in-One.
Delve deep; but don’t be tragic!
Tease and have some fun.
— Novalis, from The Fairytale of Eros and Fabel
A Festival of Surprises!
I came home thoroughly inspired, rejuvenated, charged up with ideas for projects and initiatives, and with unforgettable memories of people and landscapes. Thank you, Kim, and thank you all the festival organizers! Thanks to all those who attended, who traveled so far! Thank you to Monika, to the meadows, the trees, the vast skies of Manitoba; thank you, Gimli and Lake Winnipeg!
“I would not change it!”
Oh yes, it was a Festival of Surprises . . . as well as a Festival of Initiative — and the surprises never stopped. I’ll never forget driving off from Monika’s farm on the long dirt road back to the highway and looking at the console where an emergency light told me that the front tire was completely flat! With Peter Selg, Constanza Kaliks, and my wife Marion in the car, I thought it best to play it cool and limp along the country dirt road 3 km to the highway crossroads. Better not to alarm anyone, I thought — and I knew that sooner or later the conference bus would pull up and that my passengers could continue on the bus while I waited two hours for a repair at the crossroads. Two hours of bliss and zazen at the intersection of Road 107 and Highway 7 in Armstrong Municipality! — right across from the Peter and Paul Cemetery (I kid you not!) — with friendly Manitobans stopping now and then to offer help or consolation.
“May Human Beings Hear It!”
Well, there’s so much more I could say . . . but Marion and I gave a full report at our Section meeting on August 26. This report included many photos and a summary of what for me was a very important lecture by Peter Selg on Sunday, August 13. I did not make a recording of our Section meeting. For this posted update, I only want to memorialize a few impressions of the event in Manitoba. May the spirits hear it . . . in East, West, North, and South!
Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these Fraserwoods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons’ difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
‘This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.’
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life exempt from public haunt
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in every thing.
I would not change it.
— Wm. Shakespeare, from As You Like It
(Tuning North America?)
The individual nature of a stretch of water is expressed in the waves which arise in it and vibrate in various harmonies and rhythms. To the peculiar nature of a stretch of water belongs also an individual movement which fluctuates with a slower, more extended rhythm while bearing on its surface the more delicate play of waves caused by the wind. Every water basin, whether ocean, lake or pond, has its own natural period of vibration. This varies according to the shape, size and depth of the basin.
The whole morphological character of a lake finds expression in this natural period of vibration; it is like a “note” to which the lake is “tuned.”
– Theodor Schwenk, Sensitive Chaos
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Rajagaha, on Vulture Peak Mountain. And on that occasion Ven. Sona was staying near Rajagaha in the Cool Wood. Then, as Ven. Sona was meditating in seclusion [after doing walking meditation until the skin of his soles was split & bleeding], this train of thought arose in his awareness: “Of the Blessed One’s disciples who have aroused their persistence, I am one, but my mind is not released from the fermentations through lack of clinging/sustenance. Now, my family has enough wealth that it would be possible to enjoy wealth & make merit. What if I were to disavow the training, return to the lower life, enjoy wealth, & make merit?”
Then the Blessed One, as soon as he perceived with his awareness the train of thought in Ven. Sona’s awareness — as a strong man might stretch out his bent arm or bend his outstretched arm — disappeared from Vulture Peak Mountain, appeared in the Cool Wood right in front of Ven. Sona, and sat down on a prepared seat. Ven. Sona, after bowing down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him, “Just now, as you were meditating in seclusion, didn’t this train of thought appear to your awareness: ‘Of the Blessed One’s disciples who have aroused their persistence, I am one, but my mind is not released from the fermentations… What if I were to disavow the training, return to the lower life, enjoy wealth, & make merit?'”
“Now what do you think, Sona. Before, when you were a house-dweller, were you skilled at playing the guitar?”
“And what do you think: when the strings of your guitar were too taut, was your guitar in tune & playable?”
“And what do you think: when the strings of your guitar were too loose, was your guitar in tune & playable?”
“And what do you think: when the strings of your guitar were neither too taut nor too loose, but tuned to be right on pitch, was your guitar in tune & playable?”
“In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence . . .
— Sona Sutta