‘The ugly pigeon is a joy forever’ quoth the bearded manateed author days before his demise. A moment of enlightened profundity perhaps or pronounced incredulity that the idea of something so awful could improve ones pathway to providence. When does experiencing ugly become a joyful act? I am yet to determine the exact point upon the sliding scale. However if we delicately unwrap the word ugly it reveals a distortion of form, a bulging abstraction of what we like to consider normal. And normality makes us feel safe.
The interrogation of aesthetics, in relation to ones immediate environment, can lead to a provocation. A provocation to be still, to be silent, to listen with your whole body. To let the buildings, the trees and even the pigeons wash over you (when observing pigeons in flight, it is my belief is their torso is rather too large, leading to more of a fall than a flight and it must be noted that I too would rather not have a falling pigeon ‘wash’ over me). This is a provocation precisely because one does not stop to smell the roses if their absence is highlighted only by the decay in evidence. And the decay is often not that which was once deemed pleasing – that of the rose.
Therefore we must conclude that the Joyful Ugly Act can be achieved by letting go of the subjective aesthetic dialogue ( a near impossibility) OR it can be achieved through conducting ugly mediations with groups of aesthetically challenged people OR one must become ugly oneself (possibly achieved through a detailed meditation and observation of said pigeon). So I find myself moving between all three options, a) letting go on street corners (if you see me, I’m ok- just experiencing an ugly bath), b) facilitating such an act though meditation workshops (and unable to stop at the pigeons as it transpires all forms (leading to the provocation) can be subjected to an ugly gaze in principal) and c) perform what I consider to be Ugly, and then it is not, and then I am, but I’m not and then I am.
I have become hooked on unpicking the dirt from these thoughts, to find clarity in how we imagine the spaces we inhabit and why we attribute certain feelings towards certain buildings and people. I have once again flown the coop and deserted the actors pigeon path in the desire to understand- but it has been through the combined experience of being, teaching and listening that I am starting to put ugly in its place.
Next time you see a pigeon. Take a moment to draw the shape of its wing, its criss crossed feathers, its knees. Such a curious thing to behold another life form that breathes and moves and flies… well sort of.