The final act of a Wayang performance is called the Manyura part. Some associate this word with agrarian activity: to harvest. What does one harvest in this closing act?
After the heroes experienced both a birth and a death in the previous act, they met a wise sage or found guidance from the gods. Out of a period of meditation and training, the heroes made sense of their circumstances. They harvest the fruit of this solitary experience: personal wisdom.
The wise sages and the guiding gods are often giving their lesson indirectly. There are trials and riddles. The answers are never clear. The heroes pushed themselves to their mortal limit, repeating their mistakes, and trying to improve themselves. It is a process of recalibration, in which they measure themselves in a personal feedback loop until they reach their expected outcome. These teachers forge the heroes like a Gamelan maker forge the gongs.
In the process of such calibration, very often, it is not the enemy who they encounter. It is instead an encounter with themselves. They trim nothing except the excess of the self; they sharpen nothing except their own intuition and thought. The feedback loop made them retrace their path, only to realize at the end that the answer lies where they start. However, it will not show itself until one recalibrate oneself and see whether the standard one uses still holds the challenge of the circumstances. When the fruit is ripe and the harvest is done, the heroes embark on their showdown.
A standard and a measurement are required in the process of (re)calibration. In a Wayang story, the sages and the gods provide the rules. In our day to day experience, upon who should we rely? Especially in a fast-moving world, especially to those who find themselves in a foreign land where their tradition might not hold, and their value might be questionable.
Life is a cycle, according to the Javanese, as to how their music reflects. They teach that one should meditate on the teaching of sangkan-paran, of origin and destination. “Where did I come from; where will I go?” Generations of them ask this question, and no one gives them verbal answers, for it is the same riddle that the gods in the old-time gave to the heroes in the Wayang. One answers them by their actions in life (laku). One clue to answering such a question is to answer a simple one: “Where am I now?”
To survive this endless loop of personal journey, we should be brave enough for a recalibration of the self. In each iteration, we will return (kembali) to the point of measurement, finding out where we are at the moment and comparing it with our destination. It is the point where one rethinks one's own beliefs and values. One looks into the mirror to find the apparent changes one undergoes. One's world is changing; one's self is changing. The changes are recognizable when one involves memory: a tool to retrace the past. Thus by retracing the past and aware of the present, one may hope for the future.
Probably our heroes find themselves walking on the streets of Berlin in the last third of the night. People said that a gate in heaven opens at such time. With this opening, the world of gods will be so near to the mortals. It might be the case that our heroes are getting lost, unconsciously, or not. As the cold wind between the buildings freeze their skin, they might mistakenly hear that the wind whisper, “Wohin?” Another voice, coming from the deepest of their heart, unknown even to them, honestly replied, “Nur hin.”
Program note to Recalibration. A performance of video art, light installation, electronic music, dance, happening, and song-poem recitation. In collaboration with Nindya Nareswari, Jan K., Ariel William Orah, Unthaitel, Pepe Dayaw, Morgan “Memeshift”, soydivision, and Sari-Sari Salon. CTM Festival 2020, Studio dB, Berlin, 31 January 2020.