“We have an idea where the monsters are. So that’s where we’re headed. Friends are forged on the dark road headed out of town.”
And so it was that the day dawned and on offer was something we all had a feeling about, but weren’t quite sure exactly what was to occur. A Night of Grief & Mystery was offered and even though some of us had an inkling of the taste of it and what that might mean, we accepted it gladly, willingly and open-heartedly.
Here’s a taster, just to set the scene …
Volunteers helped bring this show to the wonderfully Gothic Teviot Hall in Edinburgh. Some of us had never met. Many of us are already bonded in some way. It all worked.
A sell-out show, the room was pulsing with mystery and grief.
Vibrating with the truth of death and living in our broken culture, our longing for elderhood and the collusion to numb the pain caused by its lack.
In the darkness also was the very full beating heart of love.
Stephen Jenkinson’s teachings are quite something to behold. Matched with lyrics and music from Gregory Hoskins, they were scintillating.
There’s something to it – the combination, the cooperation, the genuine communion of it. Heartbreak as exquisite experience.
I know I wasn’t the only one moved beyond comprehension. I could see it, hear it, feel it all around me.
The taste of it will linger for a long time. Leaving us hungry for more. Leaving us bereft of something we can’t quite name. Leaving us ready to continue to wonder, often out loud, what is to become of us on this long, dark road ahead.
Here are some words Stephen Jenkinson shared in an interview just before the UK tour. They so adequately touch on the feel of the thing;
“I think nights of grief and mystery comes from a time that’s ceremonial or ritual, which is, what ritual is, is ceremony minus an audience. We don’t have audiences if we’re successful in our undertaking. We demolish the notion of audience and try to replace it with co-conspirators of people who are in some fashion or another willing. … the night begins, … as I begin it, the band comes out, they establish a kind of musical pulse, if you will, and I come out and I join that pulse and the first thing I say is something which is invocation.
That’s what it is, and I say, welcome friends, for friends we may soon be. For friends are forged on the dark road that’s headed out of town. And we’re headed there. Who am I talking to? I am not talking to the people who are sitting there looking at me, … I’m talking to everyone who’s ever been alive, I’m talking to peoples ancestry and I’m asking them to attend to us this evening before I get anywhere close to speaking to the people who are sitting there looking at me. How shall we be and what shall we say now that the summons and the plea and the prayer has gone out?
It’s better if we make as though many a thing hangs in the balance and hangs in the rafters. As if how we are with each other tonight will be how the Gods of chance will be with us. That doesn’t sound like theatre to me, that sounds like ceremony. And we proceed that way and we call in the saints to the best of our ability and ask people to join us in doing so, and somewhere along the line, if we’re successful, there’s no more audience. There’s all of us pulling in the direction of a better day.”
Did you know that the word slogan originates in the Scots Gaelic? No? Nor did I …
Slo·gan | \ ˈslō-gən : A war cry, especially of a Scottish clan. Also a word or phrase used to express a characteristic position or stand or a goal to be achieved. An alteration of the earlier ‘slogorn’, from the Scots Gaelic ‘sluagh-ghairm’ (‘sluagh’ = army, host and ‘gairm’ = cry.)
For me, Nights of Grief and Mystery – the ritual, the ceremony – carries within it a slogan for our times. No goal to be achieved, but a stand taken.
A stand for humanity, for love, for the joy, pleasure and pain of being human. In there is a slogan for us as we learn again how to become human.
Nights of Grief and Mystery continues its North American tour soon. Maybe your nose for a little trouble might just see you there …
images + SJ’s words + video © Orphan Wisdom