Monday, September 24, 2007

A Lesson in Intention

Marcel Marceau died this week. He was a world-renowned mime who created a melancholy mime-clown named Bip.

Many years ago, when I was a student at National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut, I was privileged to take a class with this master of gesture.

Marcel Marceau’s artistry is where I first encountered the idea of intention.

His class was full of silence. Without ever speaking, he set us each a task, an exercise, to establish the fact of a wall in front of us. He put his expressive hands in the air and felt a wall, and then, through gesture, encouraged us fledglings, wannabes, to do the same.

We felt for the wall in front of us for about an hour. An hour!

Occasionally, the master would come to discover the wall we had created, and we would have a wall dialogue. Eventually, he visited every wall in the room. When he would work with a student, the wall became much more real, more solid, more . . . well, wall. He had been establishing walls in the air for decades by then.

After the silent work, he spoke in his rich French accent.

“There is only a wall if you intend a wall.”

I walked around for a full week with that sentence echoing in my head. I suppose it was a roundabout introduction to the philosophy that would eventually guide my life, metaphysics.

There is only a wall if you intend a wall.

There is only a connection if you intend a connection.

Intention is everything.

Merci beaucoup, M. Marceau. God-speed.

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