Transformance Art and “Beyond the colour of each other’s eyes” by Peter Rollins

“One of the interesting things about listening to a singer or songwriter is the way that they can often articulate some of our deepest feelings – our greatest joys and our deepest sufferings, putting them in such a way that we begin to look at those feelings… in our own lives, and as we listen to the words of the singer or songwriter, we gradually come into contact with ourselves and we begin to grow as individuals.” ~ Peter Rollins

I was listening to Peter Rollins’ message on transformance art just now again as I find it particularly meaningful and resonant. I like especially what he said here:

“In some religious circles, church can be like that… where we go and we feel great and we feel happy and we forget about our sufferings for a little while, but then the next day we may even… we’re in the same place, and so we have to go back again and again to try to get that high.

Transformance art is about creating a space that is more like a singer-songwriter or a professional mourner or a stand-up comedian. We bring together a rich blend of music, poetry, art, literature… to explore and participate in the central event(?) of christianity.

We lay our various identities at the door. There is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female; there is no Republican or Democrat or any other identity that we would bring. We lay them to one side, and we encounter each other beyond the colour of each other’s eyes. Emmanuel Levinas once said “If you really listen to somebody, really engage with him, you don’t see the colours of the eyes anymore.” You are engaged in a deeper level with him.

In Transformance Art, we attempt to get to that space. We create a space where … we try to sensitise ourselves to one another, to confront ourselves, and we confront each other, so that we can finally learn what it means to live before we die.”

~ Peter Rollins

I noted that Peter Rollins had quoted Emmanuel Levinas, and I decided to google about him. I learnt from Wikipedia that Emmanuel Levinas “was a French philosopher of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry who is known for his work related to Jewish philosophy, existentialism, ethics, and ontology.” I also learnt that Pete had written a blog entitled “Beyond the colour of each other’s eyes” some time ago that meditated on Levinas’ quote about seeing beyond our external features, such as the colour of each other’s eyes, as we lay aside our various identities and engage in a deep and intimate conversation. I find his blog meaningful and insightful.

“Indeed, in the spirit of the text, what if we could offer an interpretive translation  of Paul’s words that would read,

You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither high church nor low church, Fox nor CNN, citizen nor alien, capitalist nor communist, gay nor straight, beautiful nor ugly, East nor West, theist nor atheist, Israel nor Palestine, hawk nor dove, American nor Iraqi, married nor divorced, uptown nor downtown, terrorist nor freedom fighter, paedophile nor loving parent, priest nor prophet, fame nor obscurity, Christian nor non-Christian, for all are made one in Christ Jesus”

(From “Beyond the colour of each other’s eyes” by Peter Rollins)

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