Once when I was little and sleeping in my bed I found myself watching a strange theater of oriental warrior puppets whose texture looked as if they were made of glass. Their faces were porcelain white. There were no words or script other than music and movement, which in the context of the “story” was frightening. I actually do not know the story except that these two characters were dueling over some thing or other and were on the verge of killing each other. The manner in which they moved, slowly, carefully, watching each other and each other’s movement pushed me to the brink of feeling I was about to lose my mind. Any sudden movement almost sent my mind reeling over the edge.
The look of calm serenity on each of the characters faces – their expression, unmoving, stoic in a sense, but their movement which showed that every detailed motion was being observed – scared me to death. It felt like they were piercing reality, which I know is a strange concept, but what I mean is that the focus and attention and intention was so intense, pointed, heavy laden with emotion and non-emotion (great irony or great contradiction) that was emanating from these characters that it felt like at any given moment the world that I had come to know was faced with the possibility of being annihilated, extinct, gone. It was not a trifle matter, but a serious one that my child mind could not understand. Any sudden movement meant death. And then as suddenly as I found myself observing this staged performance of puppets trying to annihilate each other in a careful, deliberate, and methodical manner, I found myself looking at my room and the opposite wall, still hearing the oriental music fading away in the background. (I actually do not remember the instruments I heard, whether it was flutes, strings, or drums.) I was wake but never realized when it was that I opened my eyes.
Being as little as I was, I must have been at least 5 years old, I hardly knew about other cultures, let alone Japaense traditional theater performances. The closest, after so many years of this incident, I could find would be Bunraku Japanese theater.
The question remains, why did I have this experience? Why was I witness to this? Was it all a dream? Well it may have, but the few similar experiences I’ve had seem to share the same theme of annihilation and losing one’s sanity.