Geneva Diaries #4

Randomness and The Black Swan Servitus


Natalie Portman as The Black Swan:

Dear Purnima,

Wow, Talk about a random event – I just found this email in my spam box.  It

is the first and only time that an email from you has been dumped there.

Totally fascinating that you should relate Black Swan to the theatre – at

the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, my very favorite theatre there was a small

(seats about 80), very intimate setting where they do more modern and

somewhat experimental plays.  It’s called The Black Swan !

But on the other side of the mirror, I can indeed envision randomness in the

theatre.  I think it would be outrageous to write and produce a play where

the action and the eventual outcome was based on the intrusion of totally

random events during the performance.  It would have to entail actors who

were really capable of improvisation, and the potential for really boring

and meaningless performances would have to be accepted, but there would also

be the possibility of that extraordinary theatrical moment when new vistas

and visions were cracked open by the arrival of the Black Swan.  To my

knowledge, nobody has ever attempted such a play.  The Surrealists and the

subsequent Absurdists in France created some really fascinating plays in

which random happenings and chance occurrences were an element in everyday

life, but the structure of their plays was not such that such events had any

bearing on the way the play was staged – each night’s performance was the

same as the previous night’s.

But the high priest of Surrealism in France, André Breton, made many forays

into the world of dreams and chance happenings in his quest for a reality

that was superior to what we commonly refer to as reality.  He and his

followers used such techniques as automatic writing and many of them used to

spend their afternoons wandering the streets of Paris in search of random

events that would then be incorporated into their art and poetry.  Breton

met one of the women in his life during one such jaunt.

And in the virtual realm, we would have to infuse the many exciting features

of the theatre with elements of chaos theory.  I’ll have to give that more


Hope you have a good weekend.  When do you fly off to the land of illusions

?  You might find this book by Chris Hedges revealing:

Gros bisous,


Sep 11, 2009, 3:41 AM

Dear Roger,

The shadow of the Black Swan seems to be flapping above me, even though the book is long read. See below the nightmarish scene from the Black Swan:

Somehow, I am stirred to write especially today, Jeune Genevois, September 10th, 2009, a day of fasting, a public holiday here in Geneva, where the citizens of Geneva held an annual fast in camaraderie with the protestants being persecuted all over France. And, weren’t the persecutors heartless, the inquisition drenched in the blood of whole villages…I read and read. After all, was Geneva not the hub of freedom and reformation, where intellectuals fled for protection of their faith and the freedom to express their ideas?


One who holds controversial opinions and dissents from the officially accepted dogma…

Anyone who does not conform to an established doctrine, attitude or principle.

A person with an opinion of his own who normally expresses it.

I then embarked upon a journey of meeting these Historical Heretics, the swans that had been tied and burned. I met Akenaten, the heretical pharaoh who challenged the prevailing order and established a new world oder with the worship of the sun at the singular deity; Joan of Arc, challenging convention, literally a woman in mans pants; Galileo, an astronomer, physicist, mathematician, who went against the geocentric Ptolemaic idea that had prevailed for over a millennia to propose a heliocentric world, emphasizing a separation of faith and science; Spinoza, one of the greatest philosophers and the greatest heretic of Judaism in his time, who emphasized on the guidance of reason; Giordano Bruno, a mathematician, philosopher and astronomer (who said that he went to Geneva so that he may live in liberty and security), proposed a heliocentric and infinite universe and the possibility of many parallel worlds(he has to be my favorite!), And then our very own Servetus, a physician, theologian, astronomer, humanist who questioned everything, challenged norms, who fleeing from his imprisonment in Vienna on his way to northern Italy, just stopped for the night in Geneva…

Denounced as heretics, assassinated, imprisoned, excommunicated, BURNED AT THE STAKE with their books tied to their ankles! 

I come back to the Black Swan and the varied realities. The Black Swan represents that inconceivable, unfathomable, and unanticipate-able occurrence, an unknowable formula, a model that throws all others off, which if you accept the reality of, it would bring your carefully constructed world down, crashing! There is the underlying fear that the very existence of the Black Swan somehow denies your existence.The fact that you see the sun rising in the shape of a smiley banana, the sky raining kangaroos and the Porsche you worship turning into a frog with puckered lips looking at you for a ride (there is always a frog in my story!), makes you wonder whether you and everything you believe to be real exist at all. Or possibly if this exists , perhaps you don’t! How could you occupy the same space with this irrationality. So, violently and vehemently, you deny its existence at the same time reaffirming yours. You then use all the tools, laws and logic of your universe to erase the swan. Even the temples of learning and the high priests of wisdom succumb and burn the swan, the heretic, with the fires of vengeance into the ashes of silence.

Imagine  1500 years of “knowing” that the earth lies at the centre of the universe and we are all that life is about and everything revolves around us supported by fact, fiction, mythology, faith…and then you have jolly Galileo turning it all upside down. I guess you would have done what has been done to the Black Swans throughout history, denied their existence, to the extent of denying them their existence. Would you?

The story does not end…


Dear Roger,

Do you believe that Servetus, a refugee from Spain, hunted by the inquisition in France and executed in Geneva, can still today burn here in Geneva?

The shadow of the Black Swan that fluttered above my head whispered into my ear, “Purnima, what are you doing here in Geneva?”. I looked up to see the kindest face furrowed with concern. What was I doing in Geneva, living here in Champel, from California (not too far from Spain) and two weeks short of my 42nd year!

 He said that that he was on his way to Italy, and seduced by the lake and Calvin with whom he had many fiery exchanges, he came to rest here for a night. This Spanish physician, philosopher, theologian, humanist was arrested, imprisoned, declared a heretic by the city council and burned at the stake in his 42nd year.

We walked together across Bourg-de-Four Square, him in chains and me in air, up rue de Saint-Antoine out towards Champel. My home, and the place he was tied with his books and burned. It was here that he turned towards me and said that the judgement against me has been long delivered, it just waits execution. I must not hold out, I must not test my strength but beg for the sword, just beg for the sword!

So with this dramatic end, I must say goodnight and hope tomorrow is a sunny day.



PS: How can I end this without BTS Black Swan see below:

Disclaimer : P

All persons, places, events are fictitious; all imputed relationships purely aspirational. There were no men harmed during the penning of the Feminist Manifesto.

Purnima Viswanathan 

%d bloggers like this: