Cleaning up

Studying Noh theatre requires a little bit of housekeeping before you start. Cleaning means preparing a space for someone or for something to come and getting ready to receive it. As a host prepares to receive a guest, the body and the mind of the trainee (and here we could argue on the distinction made) get rid of layers of dust that have been unconsciously covered floor and furniture and open the windows, letting fresh air come in.

‘The trainee needs to be like an empty cup’, says Udaka Michishige, my Noh teacher. Although it is utopic to talk in terms of ‘neutrality’, the trainee needs to get as close as possible to a condition in which he is not influenced by his pre-existent knowledge, experience, existence. Or at least it has to remain confined to an unconscious, unexplicit level. Without the will to put your former ‘I’ aside, the master will not be able to transmit a knowledge which is handed over in a one-to-one training process. I now wonder if the adjective 素直 (sunao – meek) doesn’t have any connection with the quasi-homophone verb 砂下ろし (sunaosuru – purify one’s stomach)…

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