When presented with a thought or idea that challenges or even changes what we hold to be true, no matter how well we listen, if it doesn’t affect what we say or what we do, what does it matter?
Ultimately you have to own what you say, not what you hear. What we hear can’t be recorded, only what we say. So for how important listening is, it means nothing unless it affects what you say and does with what you now know to be true.
The first of our last two readings of Culturistan titled “What Will You Do?” by Rainer Maria Rilke, addressed this in the context of what will we be remembered by when we’re gone. Will we be remembered solely by what we’ve said or by what we’ve done? In terms of authenticity, in my case I certainly hope for the latter. I’ve strove for a level authenticity in my work throughout my life. Even if it isn’t something tangible, I know my intention was such.
The last reading of this journey was titled “I Stopped to Listen” by Leonard Cohen. I had quite an emotional reaction to this not so much because of its content but that it was the end of our Culturistan experience. I was in tears as I was asked to read it aloud, thinking less about what I was reading and more about to whom I was reading it. Each of my fellow residents has affected me deeply, in some ways known and some which have yet to be revealed. It does indeed feel like a dream.
We all agreed that it will take some time to process and see how we will be affected in the long term. I’m sure some of us will be more affected than others, but at the very least I feel a very deep sense of kinship with everyone who was here. In that sense, for me, Culturistan was a success.
To my fellow residents Gelareh, Iason, Yasmeen, Estephania, Tara, and Fayaz I thank you all for showing up. The connection I feel with you all is as authentic as can be.
And to Ahmad and Taha… thank you for bringing us together at such a beautiful location and giving us all the chance to contemplate and hopefully evolve all the ways we approach what we do. It was an honor to be part of the inaugural class of Culturistan I.