Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Suffering is the waste product of heaven

The Homeless Library is an attempt to record the lived experience of homeless people, using interviews, poetry and artwork. Part of the Library is also this blog, a diary of our own everyday triumphs and disasters while we work. Here is January 28 2016, a writing/art workshop at The Booth Centre.

I'm writing this in the canteen at the Booth Centre. Brightly painted, brightly lit, with purple and blue doors, yellow walls, many windows. An echoing room, I've never heard it quiet. Always the dance of voices, joking or angry or desperate, or bored… 

Right now there's a subdued tone, after a row. Someone left shouting, over and over, "You dirty dog! You dirty dog, dirty dog!" From a howled cry of fury, the shouting dropped away to resignation. Then staff and friends gently stepped in, with hushed voices to calm the situation. The shouter has left but the hushed voices remain.

So here I sit, post-lunch, writing these notes, piecing the morning together while the kitchen staff clatter dishes and someone whistles l Get By With A Little Help From My Friends. 

This morning we gave a workshop about ideas of suffering. It was a calculated risk I suppose you'd say. The homeless people who come into these sessions have often survived extraordinary life experiences. It's like meeting folk who've lived several times over. It seems only right to invite them to draw on that life experience in their creative work. 

Some definitions:

Suffering is learning to live.

Suffering is a lesson learnt by many people, one day at a time.

Heaven is recovery.

The risk, the downside, is that people might feel too exposed or intruded upon. For that reason, we always ask, never push - and always have a Plan B on offer. I invited the group to define first suffering, and then heaven. The pieces that they made were rewritten in large pieces of paper with brush and ink, encouraging people to think about the words in more depth. Next time they'll be cut and folded into books, further playing with the meaning. 

But here, in the big bright room, I write this project diary entry and I think about the morning.   

Heaven was created by those who haven't been to hell.

The Homeless Library is a project devised by arthur+martha to document the heritage of homelessness using interviews, artworks, poetry. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

No comments: