A Hobbit House

From the description, I thought I was on my way to The Shire yesterday: a house “totally covered in ivy and Virginia creeper” with “green round windows.” I had no idea the magic that was in store. I received so many gifts!
First, the show: a musically accompanied oral telling of Uit Spelevaren, from Camera Obscura by Hildebrand. Note: Hildebrand is the pseudonym for Nicolaas Beets, and there are few web pages in English! Most are in Dutch. ”Figuren uit de oude doos: afgestoft en in een proper en modieus kleedje gestoken. Wie kent ze niet? Hildebrand, de familier Stastok, Koosje van Naslaan, Dolf van Brammen en anderen. Pieter Stastok is waaratje verliefd. Hildebrand wil zijn neef een handje helpen. De bende gaat uit, niet met de trein, maar meet een schuitje …” I thought I did well to catch some of the names. 🙂 Amazingly, I didn’t feel any diminishment in pleasure for not knowing Flemish. No doubt it would have enhanced my appreciation, but this way I concentrated on the sounds &emdash; they were marvelous!
My only point of reference is Peter and the Wolf, and I did have a brief stretch close to the beginning when I thought this was the story. However it didn’t take too long to realize the rhythms and moods weren’t right. The character of the girl didn’t come across as a sleazy old wolf. 🙂 (And I was wondering how Annaleen was going to pull off all the different instruments!) It was later explained to me that a piece of 19th century petit bourgeois literature was chosen especially because it was written at the time of the bass clarinet‘s entry into the orchestra &emdash; allowing Anneleen to compose and show off her talents (bass clarinet, clarinet, foot pedals and laptop mixer). She will perform this for her Master’s defense this upcoming Friday; Raf will expand his oral art to shadow play (the makeshift facilities didn’t allow for the curtain and light effects that will emulate the technique of camera obscura).
I have no doubt it will be spectacular. Note this article on the phenomenology of vision applied to film: Cinema and Embodied Affect.
And this, my friends, was only the beginning of the day!


The artists and I spoke afterwards about the difficulty of earning a living with art, be it music, oral expression, or some other form of transient experience instead of a material consumer product. Raf also said something about on-going education as “a confrontation with yourself.” I relate (!), considering my own education a process of continual learning via encounters with my own shortcomings and limitations. Then – talk about random! &emdash; Bert the lorry driver/translator told me about the text he is currently translating from English to Dutch: John Holloway‘s “How to Change the World without Taking Power.” Now does this sound like a book I need to read or what?!!? “He’s not a Marxist,” says Bert, “He’s a Marxian.” I’m intrigued. A summary and critique down on john:
Change the world – without taking power?
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It only gets better! Tony Mafia’s paintings cover the walls of this dwelling. They are simply phenomenal. Several took my breath away, and I was treated to a tour and narrative of their origins. If I ever do publish a book on interpreting, I now know what I’d like to have on the cover! 🙂 Stunningly beautiful and evocative. Some of the works are haunting, many speak of a love so deep I can hardly imagine. A few of the paintings foretold Tony’s death. In one, a pale white horse enters boldly and threatens to dominate the entire scene. My host, Tony’s “Loved,” explained with her voice trailing off: “Art does what it can in the face of . . .”
There was The Sentinel, looking over the Mojave Desert, interrogating (?) those who would pass through. Not to mention the one I gazed upon for the hours of our afternoon conversation in the living room, which we spent talking about books, beliefs, life, living, and learning. You wouldn’t believe it, but my lap was occupied by first one, then two, Brussel’s Griffons!
It was indeed a day of “constant astonishment.”

2 thoughts on “A Hobbit House”

  1. About changing the world without taking power:
    I read that article, that you had linked to that blog entry — nice. It made me think a lot about self organizing systems — as in, the stuff that Margaret Wheatley talks about (writes books about). Perhaps rather than creating a large plan, the strategy likely to work for global change is to focus on supporting individuals in finding their own way, and to model that behavior. The groundswell of change that is possible is most likely to come in a form that can’t be figured out ahead of time anyway — in a self organizing system, the process is more organic. The solution doesn’t exist ahead of time — it develops as part of the process. It was heartening in that article to see the focus on small actions of self determination that make a difference. Each time somebody makes a decision based on what they care about and think is important, rather than on the dominant prescription for “success”, the energy on the planet is changed another little bit.
    I totally agree that outright confrontation with the existing structure is a losing proposition — and that the power of individuals operating in the “interstices” is huge. Going for the “change in the interstices” approach, there is probably a critical mass, where the overall pattern makes a dramatic shift — when the actions of many individuals become the action of a large group, a groundswell of change, capable of massive revolution precisely because it does not look to “take power” over or from anybody.
    Here’s to that!

  2. I think change without force is what happens within the World Social Forum. I went to a workshop at UMass World Systems Conference where the presenters outlined the way decision-making occurs (or doesn’t, as many would say), and the organic way nodes of activists get excited about an event or issue and break off to work on their own mode/means of protest or whatever. I don’t have access to my notes here, but maybe I can remember to summarize them when I get back to the States in the fall.

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