Although it’s only our second day, I feel as if we have all known each other for a lifetime. The format of our schedule balances between our discussion groups and our own time allows us to continue aspects of the group conversation one-on-one with each other. The grounds of the Chateau de Grillemont are miles from the nearest town and I am relishing in the silence and limited WiFi and cell phone reception. The lack of being inundated with the frequencies of the grid is tangible for me.
Today we discussed three pieces from our reading. The first, a poem from Kahlil Gibran titled “Sand and Foam” quickly veered from its content into a discussion of the author and his controversial history. I wondered aloud to the group how we might have reacted to the content had we not known the author and it opened a discussion on the topic, comparing it to other examples where we have to question the writings, music, and films of so many disgraced icons. The second piece was an article by Anwar Iqbal, a Pakistani actor, and director who was an apprentice newspaper reporter in 1977. His piece “Fifteen Lashes” offered a raw and graphic account on witnessing his first public flogging during the military coup of Pakistan at that time. The third was by Desmond Tutu titled “No Future Without Forgiveness” which looked at the fascinating process of creating a new Constitution for South Africa after the fall of apartheid and how to deal with and punish the perpetrators of such a horrific system.
As I get to know my fellow residents, I’ve realized an interesting point today that connects us all. Each one of us communicates in more than one language and has either traveled extensively or has lived somewhere other than their homeland. Fayaz is of Indian descent but grew up in Kenya; Gelareh is Iranian but also grew up in U.A.E and Toronto; Tara is Indian/Tajik but raised in America; Yasmeen is of Iraqi descent but raised in Chicago; Iason is Greek but speaks many languages and has lived throughout the Middle East; Estephania is Colombian but lives in Barcelona; Taha is Iranian but lives in Paris; and Ahmad is Iranian but lives in San Francisco.
Acknowledging this connection between all of us, I then saw that all the authors in our readings also traveled extensively. Is that the way to authenticity? To become a true citizen of the world and to find a career or calling that not only allows but demands traveling to places not always by personal choice is for me, definitely what brought me to my authentic self.
And here I am. Though I am an American who was raised in and still lives in America, I have traveled extensively throughout the world, touring and performing with artists from at least 30 different countries over the last 30 years. But what about being able to communicate in another language? Mine would be the language of rhythm, which is the sole reason I have been granted access to all the cultures and countries I’ve spent time in. And I feel it is the only way I have been able to achieve an understanding of authenticity. I’m sure I will reflect back on this often throughout my stay here.