Thursday 4 October 2007

One word

We went to see John Berger 'in conversation' after a showing of Pasolini's film, La Rabbia, which is the subject of one of the essays in his recent book, 'Hold Everything Dear'.

rr took an excellent photo.

He seems strong and vigorous, seems a very old man only in that he is supremely himself and unconcerned with impression-management - in a way it takes a very long lifetime to become.

He sighed and clutched his head in his hands for long moments before answering questions, and then brought out gentle, considered words that I greedily wished I could scoop up and carry home to hoard. I took away with me just one word, in the end, but it summed up all the rest: acknowledgement. That human experience, suffering, most demands acknowledgement. It's a synonym for 'hold everything dear', isn't it? It was the message, he felt, of the film.

Such an important word: acknowledgement of the effects of war, pain, fear, oppression. And I think of the word's significance on a daily, less dramatic scale. Why is it draining and maddening to live in our society of cliched slogans, automatic voices and call-centre operatives reading from a script? Because they deny the most basic need for interaction with other human beings who acknowledge us as their fellows.

Acknowledgement. Bearing witness. Sufficient motive for living, speaking, writing, for everything that I 'hold dear'. One word I'm grateful for. One smile, one mind, one body of work I'm grateful for.
He could whisper to people softly about the worst that could happen to them, and they somehow suffered a little less!

Berger on Pasolini


Anonymous said...

Like the new digs :-)

Anonymous said...

me too. Like the name, also.

Stray said...

ditto! Looks like new homes all round :)

Happy house warming,


Zhoen said...

This was the most important lesson of nursing school, even when I can't help, I can hear, see, respond in some tangible way.


Oh, and I LOVE rhubarb.

(May I be flattered by the name of this post?)

Dale said...

:-) So lovely to see your words & images again!

Doing a lot of massage with a lot of people, I've been struck by how much of what is therapeutic happens in the supposedly pre-therapeutic stage when I just ask them what's going on with their body, what needs work, what I should be careful of.

It's all about listening, with the ears or the eyes or the hands. Attending. It's really the only way to say "you matter" that's credible.

rbarenblat said...

This sounds pretty glorious -- wish I could have been there.

Also, welcome to your new blog-home!

leslee said...

Very nice new space, Jean. You're right, acknowledgement is a powerful thing. Especially when we're in pain, or when we feel different and don't fit in - how wonderful to be with people who make us feel acknowledged in some way. It's a gift.

Lucy said...

At last. So good to know where to find you again.
The poem was beautiful too.