“By the end of January,” The Scotsman writes, “it’s essential to be back in Edinburgh… where Nicholas Bone’s intriguing performance company Magnetic North stages a version of Henry Thoreau’s Walden, one of the most famous essays ever written on the idea of self-sufficiency and human harmony with nature.” The set has been designed by Sans Façon.
What blows me away, though, is the suggestion, in the image, above, that one could build a kind of personal retreat in the middle of an underground car park.
You’re fed up. You want to be alone, to spend some time getting to know your own inner tendencies, how you react to things free from the influence of others, what you think about when you’re not at work or out drinking with friends or consumed with constricting deadlines; you want to sit alone in the emptiness, surrounded by nothing, implanting yourself there in the void, all deliberate solitude and meditation.
But you don’t go to the woods.
You don’t go out to some canyon somewhere. Forget nature.
You build a cabin in an underground car park and you eat canned spinach.
You’re the only one there. Sleeping at night is almost literally sublime: the whole place roars with unseen machines, ventilation flues droning at all hours. It’s like living inside a resonator, a whorling microclimate inside the earth, cavernous.
No one knows you’re down there.
No one’s ever parked this far underground.
Like the grain of sand that becomes a pearl, you know you’ll someday re-emerge, psychologically transformed by that encounter with stale air and concrete.
In Walden, Thoreau famously wrote:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
But what Thoreau didn’t have was a good underground car park – that modern solitude of slanted floors and cold air.
Car parks will be the catalysts for our future evolution.