Nature and Boxes


This was originally performed as a stage piece in the traditional theater sense, the audience observing without actively participating. We now often do it following Body Streaming, using the moving, blindfolded audience as the "Nature Body" (see following).

We open with a complex, polyrhythmic soundscape. The cast, mostly or all nude, are gathered together with a lot of contact between our bodies. We move rhythmically, but each with his own feeling and pace. Sometimes there are brief periods of dance-like alignment and harmony; other times we smash into each other clumsily, as if unaware of each others' presence. (This group of people is called the "Nature Body".)

There are two narrators who speak about the character of Nature as experienced "from within" and "from outside". The narration from within is framed in post-Burroughs "fold-in" language. The external narration describes some of the evolution of the "western rational tradition", citing Euclid, Descartes, and William of Occam, emphasizing the desire to "make sense of" phenomena.

A cast member begins to box the members of the Nature Body, pushing square cardboard tubes over our arms, legs, and chests. Our dance-like motions are constrained by these stiff boxes, and our fleshy contact with one another is blocked. We move "in place", separately. The subject of the narration goes from sense-making to control, describing a growing addiction to the processes of rationality.

The boxed cast overcome our frozenness and begin throwing ourselves at each other in an increasingly frenzied attempt to break out of the boxes and contact one another again. The narration describes this as a continuation of the ways of nature (not as a return to the way of nature; the way of nature has never been lost). Eventually we're able to cast off our boxes and triumphantly embrace one another again, recreating the initial character of our group body.

See the Full Narrative for this piece.


Rationalism has developed to the point we call "rationalist imperialism", imposing a radical monopoly on the getting of wisdom. It's taken on the desperate characteristics of addiction. In this brief play we present the situation in a historical (or mythic; you take your pick) context.

In the initial Eden there's a sense of oneness about the Body of Nature; there are no clear divisions. At some point an individual viewpoint comes to regard the Body as distinct from itself, and then begins drawing distinctions on the Body. Early on there's a gentleness and humility about the enterprise: the mind making sense of the world and itself as one. In time though we see an attachment that engenders resistance to the Body's ways; an insistence on having the form of our world arise from our "understandings". Hunger for control becomes feverish.

"Galling limitation must not be sustained." (I Ching 60, Limitation) The seeds were sprouting underground all the time the concrete was being poured; inevitably they begin to break through. Held apart in the mind of the thinker, the elements of the Body of Nature agitate to rejoin -- in the mind of the thinker. None of this has taken place outside the Body of Nature; there is no "outside". This conflict is itself the way of Nature.

"Neither the flag nor the wind is moving. Mind is moving." -- Mumonkan 29

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  Nature and Boxes
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