Thursday, March 29, 2012

to live in God so thoroughly, so unselfconsciouly, that we become pure act

Cristiani Bros. Circus 1956
A caption that goes with this photo:
After the teeterboard act, left to right, Ortans (Cristiani) Canestrelli, Oscar Cristiani, Belmonte Cristiani, Mogador Cristiani and Lucio Cristiani. Behind Oscar, may have been Daviso Cristiani or Freddie Canestrelli.
(Lax's friend, Mogodor, is front and center)

During the 1950s Lax traveled to western Canada with the Cristiani circus family.  He saw in this family something similar to what he intuited as "pure act", not only when they performed but when they interacted with each other as well:

"Everything they did was both spontaneous and confident, flowing the way a river flows. This way of being in the world came from years of practicing their art but also from a deeper well of knowing. They had been acrobats for several generations and the way they moved, the way they were, seemed bred in the bone. He found himself wanting to be a poet in the same way they were acrobats, his poetry flowing from who he was by nature, without the artistic calculations that kept it from being pure.

That should be our goal as people of God as well, thought Lax, who had converted from Judaism to Catholicism several years before: to live in God so thoroughly, so unselfconsciously, that we become pure act, too. In his Circus cycle, in comparing creation to a traveling circus, he equated God’s people with acrobats. How do God’s people move on the earth? Here’s his description of Mogador Cristiani, the book’s central character and Lax’s good friend:

He walks the earth like a turning ball: knowing
and rejoicing in his sense of balance:
he delights in the fulcrums
and levers, teeter-boards, trampolines, high-wires,
swings, the nets, ropes and ring-curbs of the natural

Beneath his feet the world is buoyant,
thin and alive as a bounding rope.
He stands on it poised,
a gyroscope on the rim of a glass,
sustained by the whirling of an inner wheel.

He steps through the drum of light and air, his
hand held forth.
The moment is a sphere moving with Mogador.

- from "A Gyroscope on the Island of Love" by Michael McGregor, an article published in Image Magazine, Issue 70, available HERE.
 See also:
Lax on Pure Act
acrobat and pure prayer - Phillippe Petit


  1. Two good new Lax posts. So, I'm thinking about "Pure Act" .... Pure act of living??
    Is this purity in thought and action....or maybe purity in No thought and action. Purity in being..?? Pure act...Pure prayer. Life lived this way being a life of prayer. Less calculated, less contrived but attentive and grateful. ???

    In the first post I liked the idea of Sanctity of ALL things that McGregor refers to.

    Hope there is a book coming out. That's just what I need, another book.

  2. Beth, You have opened Lax to a greater audience. In a new way ...Gracias !! Here-The pure act of being in thin air sans net, spirit is the doer, the catcher a letting in and Lax invites us into these exquisite mosaics of is-ness.
    Beth these passages on Lax add grace to our collective pilgrimage. Namaste Said

  3. St Thomas Aquanis said that God is "pure act" - that there is no potentiality in Him, only actualization; whereas we mortals are only potential, always longing to actualize our reality.

    We long for reality, but it does not belong to us.

    Our ego is illusory, but our true reality is from God, who alone is actual, according to St Thomas. This is what Lax is talking about.

    Yes, Beth, I have never paid much attention to Lax, until I started reading your wonderful contemplative reflections. Thank you.


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