No-Thing Is Left to Tell: Zen/Chaos Theory in the Dramatic Art of Samuel Beckett

No-Thing Is Left to Tell: Zen/Chaos Theory in the Dramatic Art of Samuel Beckett

No-Thing Is Left to Tell: Zen/Chaos Theory in the Dramatic Art of Samuel Beckett

No-Thing Is Left to Tell: Zen/Chaos Theory in the Dramatic Art of Samuel Beckett

Synopsis

Zen Buddhism and the Chaos theory are used in this work as binocular lenses to examine the existential difficulties in Samuel Beckett's plays in terms that circumvent traditional Western schools of thought. No-Thing Is Left to Tell examines Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Happy Days, Footfalls, and Ohio Impromptu, discovering both within them and throughout the larger scale of Beckett's plays as a whole, a movement toward revisioning our world in terms of a nonclosed, unself-conscious state. Illustrated.

Excerpt

In a way, art is a theory about the way the world looks to human beings.
It's abundantly obvious that one doesn't know the world around us in
detail. What artists have accomplished is realizing that there's only a
small amount of stuff that's important, and then seeing what it was.

—Mitchell Feigenbaum

Then comes the supreme and ultimate miracle: art becomes “artless,”
shooting becomes not-shooting, a shooting without bow and arrow; the
teacher becomes a pupil again, the Master a beginner, the end a begin
ning, and the beginning perfection.

—Eugen Herrigel

“Nothing is left to tell.” So saying, R closes the “worn volume” in Samuel Beckett's short play Ohio Impromptu, a move claiming at once closure and ending, and—given its context—leaving characters and audience in some “other” realm of “Profounds of mind. Of mindlessness.” Seemingly contrary signals of finality and ever-opening horizons exist simultaneously in a work whose dramatic impact far outweighs its small size. R's words, following a period of quasi-meditative ritual readings, apparently close off any further development for both Ohio Impromptu and drama as a whole; for, when “Nothing is left to tell,” what is there to say? Yet this very act of finality is generative, the unclosed pieces of the play re-membering and reconfiguring themselves in manifold ways within the potential space left by the final “stone” stare R and L share. This final moment in Ohio Impromptu is emblematic of Beckett's entire dramatic oeuvre in its compression of apparent polarities into a fluid union; it is a re-placement, or recentering, of complex “fringe” elements into a generative phenomenology where meaning gives way to patterns of information—a central theme for both Zen Buddhism and Chaos theory, as well as Beckett's plays. Instead of comprehending Beckett's drama in terms of an expanding entropy that will ultimately lead to what Clov calls a “silent stillness,” Zen and Chaos . . .

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