A guest-post written by a female Lebanese friend that we will call M.
A 20′ something mad poet and expert in the war of art.
Saturday evening, on a quiet lazy afternoon, I went to watch a bullfight in Las Ventas, one of Madrid’s most famous bullrings.
I went there out of curiosity. I had long been haunted by the image of the matador with its custom made torero suit, embroidered with golden threads, looking spectacular in his “suit of light” or traje de luces as they call it in Spain.
I was curious to see the dance of death unfold in front of me, to test my humanity in the midst of blood and gold, and to see in which state my soul will come out of the arena, whether it will be shaken and stirred, furious and angry, or a little bit aware of the life embedded in every death.
Being an avid fan of Hemingway, and a proponent of his famous sentence “About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after,” I went there willingly to test myself. I had heard atrocities about bullfighting yet I had this immense desire to be part of what I partially had an inclination to call a bloody piece of cultural experience.
As I sat there, in front of the empty arena, I felt a grandiose feeling of belonging to something bigger than anything I experienced during my stay in Spain. Few minutes and I’ll be witnessing a painting being carefully drawn in front of me, few minutes and I will be part of an artform deeply entrenched in the Spanish cultural heritage: the art of defying death.
But to sit there, and to watch the bull enter the arena . . to watch one bull surrounded by a matador and his six assistants. To watch the matador confronting the bull with the capote, performing a series of passes, just before the picador on a horse stabs the bull’s neck, weakening the neck muscles and leading to the animal’s first loss of blood… Starting a game with only one side having decided fully to engage in while making sure all the odds will be in the favor of him being a predetermined winner.
It was this moment precisely that made me feel part of something immoral. The unfair rules of the game. The indifferent bull being begged to react, being pushed to the edge of fury. The bull, tired and peaceful. The bull, being teased relentlessly. The bull being pushed to a game he isn’t interested in. And the matador getting credits for an unfair game he set.
As I left the arena, people looked at me with mocking eyes. Yes, I went to watch a bullfight and yes the play of colors is marvelous. The matador’s costume is breathtaking and to be sitting in an arena fills your lungs with the sands of time. But to see the amount of claps the spill of blood was getting was beyond what I can endure. To hear the amount of claps injustice brings is astonishing.
You understand a lot about human nature, about the wars taking place every day, about poverty and starvation. You understand a lot about racial discrimination and abuse (verbal and physical), sex trafficking, and everything that stirs the wounds of this world wide open. You understand a lot about humans’ thirst for injustice and violence as a way to empower hidden insecurities.
Replace the bull and replace the matador. And the arena will still be there. And you’ll hear the claps.
You’ve been hearing them ever since you opened your eyes.