Thesis Number: #10 (Page 3 of 8)

Eventually elevated to the status of bishop, John Davies is now retired. But Bishop Davies still ministers to the needs of his community, and he continues to remind religious leaders that they are the keepers of sacred visions. One of these is elaborated in Leviticus, the contemporary relevance of which he explores in compelling terms (in Rogerson: forthcoming).

  • Language of the theatre

The process by which art may awaken the collective consciousness is laid bare in the notebooks of South African playwright Athol Fugard. He records: “The sense I have of myself is that of a ‘regional’ writer with the themes, textures, acts of celebration, of defiance and outrage that go with the South African experience” (1983: 8). His recorded observations empowered him to evolve narratives that turned into the plays which exposed the disgrace of apartheid to a global audience.

Artists utter truths that are uncomfortable to the people in power. The American playwright Eugene O’Neill was one of them. His 49 plays examine how lives are shaped by heredity, space, time and the hierarchies in communities. O’Neill explores how the individual interacts with society at large, to assess the way in which social conventions influence character. But he also interrogates the way in which, through the quest for personal freedom, the individual can break from the constraints inherited from the past.

O’Neill presents human beings and nature as parts of a whole. His characters struggle for re-birth. God occupied a central place in his plays, but that God was not of the anthropocentric kind, an external Supreme Being, but was part of nature, which encompasses the individual. “Each individual must therefore search the depths of his soul so that he might attain a revelation that is undoubtedly of an almost divine nature but that will reveal his fundamental unity with a whole of which he had until this point been unaware even if at times he had sensed it” (Dubost 1997: 225).

Box 2

Unchaining the Peasants

 

Count Leo Tolstoy was a land owner disturbed by his conscience. This led him to warn the czar that Russia was in a state of pre-revolutionary fervour. The czar ignored his advice. Tolstoy elaborated on his proposals in a letter to the editor of the London Times, in which he endorsed the British government’s budgetary proposals (in 1909) to shift taxes off labour and onto the rents of land (Redfearn 1992). Tolstoy interrogated the parasitic nature of land monopoly in the novel he called Resurrection. In this, an enlightened landlord seeks personal salvation by divesting himself of his land in favour of his tenants.

Re-identifying the individual with the natural world implied a rupture in people’s perceptions of relationships and property rights. For social change to take place, people must control their personal destinies. O’Neill lays out the challenge. “When the individual is defined, he must remain faithful to himself, and to do this, he must have the courage to free himself from his chains, which take the most diverse forms” (Dubost 1997: 225). That challenge found one of its most dramatic expressions in a novel by Leo Tolstoy, in which he explicitly lays out the structural reforms needed to renew society (Box 2).

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