Starting Blocks Blog: Philippa Hambly

KINKENS: WEEK THREE – KnowKnewNewNowNotKnotKnowKnewNewNowNotKnotKnow

Kinkens is the Old Scots word for the evasive answers to the questions of overly curious children.

Here’s a story we’re all familiar with – person is born, for some reason feels unsatisfied, lies down for a bit, feels unsatisfied. Learns to sit up, sits up and lies down, feels unsatisfied. Learns to walk, sits up, lies down and walks around for a bit, feels unsatisfied. Makes contact with other people, learns to talk, sits up, lies down, walks around and talks for a bit, all the while feeling unsatisfied. Person gets bigger, either thinks it is extremely clever and should be in charge or thinks it is very stupid and should do as it is told, hears the Kid Carpet song ‘No One Gives a Shit if You’re Not Special’, feels unsatisfied. Is told to aspire, feels happy for a moment! Learns about death and change. Finds itself unsatisfied. Waits for the day when it won’t feel unsatisfied. BLOODY HELL ISN’T LIFE HARD.

I was thinking about that little child inside all of us, the open potential of newness that everyone has, even at a cellular level, even if it’s quiet. And the utterly pointless gift that nature has bestowed upon the human, to question existence and truth, and create paradox. Dolphins are intelligent, but, for example, I wonder about their capacity for subjectivity? Like if the pod are encountered by a scuba diving group, do their squeaks and pips communicate differing opinion about the intrusiveness of the split-tailed fish, whilst all agreeing it demonstrated a very inefficient and un-evolved aquatic cardiovascular system when one of the creatures lost connection with its cylindrical external breathing apparatus, made a series of agitated movements with its tentacles whilst emitting high frequency fear waves, and had to resurface. I just wonder why it’s necessary for the human being to have subjectivity at all? Why is it necessary to create objects outside ourselves to subjectively ponder? We can measure stuff, there are things to do, useful things, so why do we waste energy having thoughts about questions that in the nature can never be answered?

I thought I’d pull together all the known knowledge of existence across all areas, biology, sociology, philosophy, cultural studies, physics, all of that, and make a show about not answering the question: ‘What is the meaning of life?’.

Isn’t every piece of theatre about the meaning of life? Isn’t every piece of art? Is that not why art exists? Way back when the early hominid drew on her cave wall, bored of boiling the mammoth and gathering nuts and figs, awaiting the return of her hairy bottomed, spear wielding boy hominid, wondering what would happen if she tried to evoke the moment he extinguished the life of their supper with colours on the stone. Or maybe he drew, describing to his cave dwelling villager friends his adventures over the previous week in the only way available, given that verbal language hadn’t yet developed a past tense. Or perhaps they were drawn by an early Jon Snow – a chronicler, a journalist, who didn’t really like the fighting and killing part, but went along for the camping and the walking and when it came to the bloody testosterone fuelled action climbed a tree muttering – “no, no, you go ahead, bit of a bubbly tummy, think I’ll just watch. Don’t worry, I’ll take pictures!” Or perhaps, the possibility of recalling events, of memory, had not yet been wired into the brain of that species at all. Drawings and dances were a fantastical evocation of a present, something like a living imagination. Just beings, being and doing, not for any particular goal or future. Hominid art for hominid arts sake. Isn’t laughing and loving and sharing and having and knowing and learning and growing and showing and eating and breathing and walking and seeing and hearing and tasting and touching and stretching and folding and healing and feeling and travelling, dancing, singing, banging, playing, sleeping, groaning, moaning, crying, shaking, baking, making, taking what we need, giving what we don’t, giving what we need, taking what we don’t, sensing deep, deep down, looking far, far out, isn’t that what life is about? Happiness, actualisation, fulfilment? Soooo, why do I want to see a piece of theatre about not answering the question what is the meaning of life, when I already know it? Maybe I should ask why do you?

I’ve decided to play mind-minder, and in the same way every despairing child-minder does, shove in that giant pacifying ‘WHY-NOT!’ dummy. SUCK ON THAT.

Well that was a bit harsh. Acknowledged, it’s a nauseatingly cliched and immature thematic stimulus. Much like the nauseating why whine – ‘why – why – why – why – why – why  – but whhhyyyy?’ of the little child inside that just keeps asking, well it keeps asking why.

We know they don’t do it because they actually want an answer. They do it because its fun to see grown-ups flap about and get annoyed. It’s hilarious.

In a nutshell, if Kinkens was a nut contained in a nutshell, and this was what it was to describe how that would be, to put it simply in other words, I wonder what would happen if we were a bit more open about the things we are a bit less sure of, and a bit more willing to accept all that is possible? Or if we can’t accept, at least listen, look, consider. Conviction is great – courage and knowledge and strength and all of that – but what about those times when we really don’t know? What would it be to crack open some of the spaces that we try so desperately to avoid?

So, currently exploring all the wonderful ways the mind and the body come up with to not answer existential, cosmological, biological and spiritual questions, and the very human struggle this involves.

March 19th, as part of Sprint Festival at Camden People’s Theatre, we will host the event ‘LIFE: A WORK IN PROGRESS’ and you are very much invited.

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