Sometime back in the 1990’s, a book was published by the Theatre Communications Guild (I think) that dealt in performance anthropology. The book chronicled performance traditions from cultures around the world, and one of the ideas the studies explored was the push/pull of balance and tension. In the body of the actor, the structure needed to create any performance is a dynamic relationship between the body at rest and the body in crisis. The moment in which crisis/chaos settles into precarious rest is usually the moment of greatest attention and intention, the moment of greatest interest and revelation–beauty–for the audience.
Entropy is ever present. As I suggested yesterday, beauty is a move toward order. But always there is an enemy to that order. Call it what you will, left alone, degeneration occurs. Chaos ensues. Messy rooms will not clean themselves, nor will dirty dishes. Houses will not keep themselves up, and paints will not arrange themselves artfully onto a canvas. Death is coming, and even as we soar in some artful endeavor, there is that move back toward muck always pulling at our heels.
Beauty depends on tension for its release into the hearts of the perceiver. Tension is a crucial piece of the context for any aesthetic flash of insight, revelation, or delight. Tension is the road along which balance must travel, the occasional stops being points of potential greatness and beauty. Almost as if our very precariousness is the ground from which beauty rises.
Trouble is we don’t like precariousness. We often run from the tensions suggesting themselves both in everyday and artful life. But perhaps we should lean into the tensions of our lives, working for that moment in which the force of our spirits suddenly finds the lift in the turbulence, finds the place where opposing forces are forced into harmony for just a bit of what my friend calls “laminar flow.”