Archive for the ‘ declarations ’ Category

Full Life

Still-Life

 

If the real truth is found in silence, then I have been more honest with you, Reader, in the past six months than ever before.

 
The real truth is that I am a small person whose life can only be witnessed by the few who jostle for proximity. The real truth is that I have so much to say and with such feeling that the utterance seems to cheapen it by dilution.

 
Reader, I am marrying a man. I am marrying the man that I want, the man that I dreaded because he was too perfectly my inner soul’s desire and threatened to make my life happier than I felt it had a right to be. Happiness is for the weak, for those who close their eyes to the sorrow of the world, for those who will not sit in silence and bear up under it alone, for those who are Human and not Atlas.

 
I forget that I am human, Reader.

 
And furthermore, I forget that grasping happiness though it runs through your fingers and linking arms with a person though they walk at a different pace and relinquishing sole proprietorship to another gloriously faulty spirit—these things are brave. These things are beautiful. These things make the universe mean something more, even if you are only dressing up entropic atoms with sentiment. I choose the sentiment. I choose to feel.

 
I get angry because I wasn’t watching the road and slammed on breaks and food and papers and shoes and jackets and books have careened into the crumb-crusted carpet of my dying Toyota.

 
I get surprised because my family and friends actually left their comfortable homes, got into their cars, drove into the scary ITP, huddled silent and sweaty in a spare room, and celebrated our engagement with wine and cake and stories and hugs and tears and letters and laughs.

 
I get overwhelmed that the logistical felicity of 35,000 ticket-holders depends on my dexterity with Excel, Adobe, iPhone, vehicle, GPS, small talk, Outlook, clothing shopping, and getting a good night’s sleep (at which I suck).

 
I get sorrowful because I miss my close friend and all I could think about while I listened to him tell his story about moving across the country is how much I will miss him when he is gone and how talking on the phone isn’t the same as accidentally bumping into each other when you readjust in your seat across the booth or as squeezing each other tight when you say goodbye with a hug or as seeing what’s really happening inside the face though the words sound normal enough.

 
I get jealous of my beloved because I want to forge a fairy-tale home for him that is cool in the summer and warm in the winter and pleasing to the eye all year round and brimming with the hearts of people who love him and need him and respect him and teach him and hear him and sometimes my best-laid plans are corrupted by my own need for him to build me a fairy-tale home that is always the right temperature and situated in a convenient location and full of furniture that doesn’t make you sore after a three-wine-glass conversation.

 
I get proud of myself for acting like an adult, which basically means that you keep on acting even if you don’t hear applause or get a review (let alone a good one!) in the paper or get the contract renewal before the current one expires.

 
Life has been extraordinary to me and it’s filled my little clay plate with a helluva lot more tasty and prickly food than it can manage, and I don’t ever want to give the impression that I am insensible to that bounteous fact. But sometimes, standing there without saying anything, just holding your plate with both hands in front of you and your face turned down so you don’t trip while you’re walking—sometimes, the silence is all. Thanks for listening.

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The Best Parts of Life Have No Record

Bahaha! *laughing and crying simultaneously*

Bahaha! *laughing and crying simultaneously*

I watched a film tonight about hunting Nazis—prosecuting war criminals using documentation, interviews, eye-witness accounts, etc.

Quite apart from the obviously incendiary content, the film threw me into contemplation of the past two and a half months of my life.  Months, which according to this blog, never existed.  Months, which according to my iCal were completely unpopulated with events.  Months, which according to my bank account, were only spent eating food and sleeping under a roof—oh, and an occasional theatrical excursion.

There is no record of the 1000+ backordered items that my staff and I have delivered to our customers.  Nor of the 13-hour days with only a meal and a half to see me through.  Nor of my emotional, spiritual, or psychological journey from a “college graduate” to a “young adult.”

And yet, all of this and more has happened.  One of the perversities of our digital age of immediacy is that there will forever be a record of the fried baby octopus I ate for dinner a week ago.  But vanished forever in the recesses of my spirit are the undulations of my soul, my connections with other people, my disillusionment with myself.

Facebook, play on.

WordPress, write one.

Heart, beat on.

There is One listening.

Living for More Than Profit

On Facebook today, the Shakespeare Tavern drew my attention to a recent article by Susan Booth, artistic director of the Alliance Theater.  (And there you have some of the most important hyperlinks you’ll ever need, all in one sentence 🙂

In her article, Booth articulates that funding for the arts has largely failed since we’ve moved to a consumer-centered capitalist bottom-line ideology because the arts are not about profit of a material kind but about profit of an essential, unquantifiable human kind.

The supply-and-demand question isn’t really about a supply of cultural organizations and a demand for the arts.

And as long as we keep arts-funding relegated to that small definition, we will always have cries for financial help and imperiled institutions.

But were we to acknowledge that our shared need for introspection and empathy flows through every facet of our daily lives and is therefore essential for us to support, then perhaps we’d stop talking about arts funding and start talking about humanity funding.

I think that Booth has not only diagnosed the cyclical nature of the annual funds and desperate direct mailings that theater-lovers receive on an ever increasing basis, but she has also discovered how America has impoverished itself.  Defining our lives by the cruel rigor of supply-demand excises us from the source of life.  

My seventh grade science book defined life as the ability to:

  • grow
  • respond to surroundings
  • reproduce
  • extract energy from the sun (or food)

In my marketplace mire, I often see death:

  • one routine that never changes or offers incentive for improvement
  • inability to react to people, events–internal or external–in deference to the “professional” determination to ignore everything that doesn’t contribute to scanning at a register, checking out online, or sealing the deal
  • strict limitations on how much or how little of another individual’s ideas, personality, etc. I can incorporate into something new that combines with my ideas, personality, etc.
  • discouragement to engage with spirituality, Nature, feasting, partying, dancing, laughing, music, or other food for body, mind, soul, and spirit

So I take up Booth’s challenge and snowball it into my own: I WILL LIVE!  Not only will I make it through the day, but I will decay a little less.  A plant or animal expends all its energy on those four characteristics of life; I will quit hoarding the precious little I have in the hope that it will suddenly expand into a never-ending, self-sustaining supply for which there will be eternal demand, but I will give my time and energy to growth, reaction, reproduction, and sustenance.  Like Booth explained, communities that are culturally impacted by the arts are compassionate and vital (alive).  Maybe America would have more personal improvements, more interconnectivity, more happy babies and creative masterpieces, more girth––all because of a little more of a fiscally silly thing: funding humanity.

Life should be a crazy ride that you just hold on and enjoy.

Life should be a crazy ride that you just hold on and enjoy.

18 Augusts R.I.P.

Should I be surprised that after 18 years of resuming classes in August (or September, if you count the post-Labor Day glory of elementary school) I am going through withdrawals?

Long live classic Lisa Frank!

Long live classic Lisa Frank!

No more trips to Walmart, Office Depot, Staples, or Target for coordinating folders, fresh college-ruled notebook paper, or superfluous protractors.  No more nervous filling out of agendas, mapping of the hallways, practicing of the lock combination, or ironing of the uniform.  Actually, I’m not sure if I ever ironed my high school uniform… No more midnight run to Walmart (well, 10 p.m. run for the first few semesters until the 24/7 one opened up the road) for plastic martini glasses, lined / un-lined index cards, or polka-dotted set of rain boots and umbrella.  No more calculating the commute (car + bus + walk), downloading the pre-class iPod playlist, impulsively purchasing of the overpriced wall poster, or stalking professors online profiles at ratemyprofessors.com.  Actually, I’ve never done preliminary research on a professor… In homage to my years of education, may 1992 – 2010 rest in peace, I offer an unusual reminiscence: my scholastic pet peeves.  Anyone can write about what everyone else does during school; so I will regale you with what nobody did…but me.

  • All the pages in a coloring book must be finished before a new coloring book can begin; this goes for to-do lists as well.
  • Pencils without erasers are not permitted.
  • Even if I know the teacher will never get to the part where the compass and protractor are required, you must faithfully carry them within easy reach in the pencil pouch at the front of the binder.
  • My book bag must be able to stand on its own four feet.  Literally: no slouching.
  • Gum is ABSOLUTELY required at all times—-no fruity flavors, only mint.
  • Take the prettiest, not shortest, route along the road, bus, or sidewalk.
  • Swing your umbrella in circles as you walk back from class, paying no attention until *SMACK* it hits you in the face.  Repeat.
  • Wear jeans as often as possible so you don’t have to shave your legs.
  • (1) August – September: full make-up and accessories (2) October – November: no make-up, one bracelet (3) December: please shower!
  • All doodling must be worthy of display in the High Museum of Art.  If it’s not, throw it away; stop doodling and pay attention.
  • Take notes—even if you already know the content.
  • Talk to the teacher and answer questions: always.
  • Stay after class to discuss the deeper implications and your own experiences and reactions: always.
  • Stop by whether it’s office hours or not: always.
  • Sleep in class: never.
  • Keep all textbooks—even if you already have a copy of that novel.
O! Education, long may you live on in the hearts of your Students, never ceasing to say: get a life! =)
And now, Ladies & Gentlemen, for your viewing pleasure:
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Living in a Tragicomedy

Harold decides he is in a tragedy but ends in a comedy.

Harold decides he is in a tragedy but ends in a comedy.

There is a fantastic scene from Stranger Than Fiction in which Harold Crick, a tax auditor, tallies the moments of his life in a little notebook.  His goal: to discover if his life is a tragedy or a comedy.  According to the oldest dramatic traditions, either he will get married (accepted into society and always have backup) or die (evicted from the planet by force of Mother Nature or a fellow human). Sometimes I wish I had a little black book to tell me so.

The baker gives you an extra cookie, no charge: comedy.  Your high school crush comments on your profile picture and says your new summer tan makes you look, quote, “hot”: comedy.  You catch the season finale of Swamp People while channel surfing: comedy.  Flying down the highway at 80 mph, you pass an officer pulling someone else over for a ticket: comedy.  All the little things that add up to assure you that you belong in the world, your place is valuable, and you’re going to make it in life.

You show up for your dentist appointment one day and one hour late: tragedy.  You forget to turn in your timesheet on Thursday—which means your paycheck won’t get issued until the following Wednesday and the USPS won’t put it in your mailbox until the Monday after that: tragedy.  Your bank teller informs you that depositing at the counter will cost you $9 since your account is now “paperless”: tragedy.  The can of soda that you accidentally left in your car’s backseat cup holder explodes in the 120-degree heat while you’re working (caffeine-less) in the 55-degree office: tragedy.  All the little things that accrue as evidence that you have no idea what you’re doing, the world doesn’t want you in it, and life ends when you’re 40 but can’t start until then either (something about paychecks and salaries and “work experience”).

the Master of Tragicomedy: Charlie Chaplin

the Master of Tragicomedy: Charlie Chaplin

So—all taken into account, is a life comedic or tragic?  And, according to Tolstoy, Chekov, and a  host of other brilliant Russian authors, does it even matter whether it’s one or the other?  Is Romeo and Juliet the world’s greatest tragedy or cruelest comedy? The answer: yes.

Life is a tragicomedy.  And the only way to ever make it through one of those is to keeping moving.  Crying, laughing, skipping, or crawling, the show must go on.  Life isn’t a dress rehearsal, after all; so make the best of it, they would say.

I re-discovered in the trunk of my car this week a box of books.  Not because my car is so unbelievably cluttered that I forgot it was there; I forgot it was there because it has become a permanent fixture in my trunk.  This box of books has been in my trunk since Spring 2010.  Yes, 2010.  I put it there after a book swap put on by the English Majors Association.  The problem is that English majors hoard books, they don’t share them.  The leftovers we planned on donating to a local library near our college.  That was my best intention.

What is your "box of books"?

What is your "box of books"?

I convinced myself that even though the books rode all the way home with me when I cleaned out my apartment after graduation, when I visited my friends left behind, they would ride all the way back to the poor provincial library to whom they were justly due.  We all see how that turned out.  Tragic?  Slightly.  Comedic? Slightly.  Absurd?  Absolutely.  And in the face of absurdity, the only answer is to keep going and quit carrying all your baggage around.  All the undone things that sit in the trunk of psyche.  All the decisions about whether or not we failed or succeeded.  They should be mercifully cleared away.

I will be visiting my local library this afternoon—with a tragicomical smile of relief on my face.

The Sound of Toil

A fine romance

A fine romance

The Sound of Music is one of those inexorable movies that you either love or hate—-and it may change by the moment.  But the other night when I watched it with my sisters, I was “twitterpated” with it again!  And, like sweet-and-salty snacks, it’s a delicious contrast with another Best Picture winner, Chicago.

The 1965 winner is full of deceptively light-sounding songs about the savvy and perseverance required in an age when noble men lived in sprawling villas raising brilliant children and charming lovely ladies on the ballroom floor.  Seems like an era that didn’t need much perseverance, doesn’t it.  But what I appreciated about The Sound of Music this time was the fact that underneath all the bubbly childish cheer, there is a darker side of a vanishing life.  The house is empty and shadows when Maria arrives.  The children’s uniforms don’t quite fit correctly.  There are no groundskeepers, although the startling view of the lake never alters.  The gala ballroom is full of characters we don’t know, and horses and motorcars vie for the gravel drive.  The story is intimate, but in its intimacy it is also empty—foreshadowing the stripping and rending to come.  Examining Maria’s bedroom during “My Favorite Things,” it struck me that she and the children would have little to take when they ran away: the rooms were like guest rooms, nothing personal, simply accommodating.

Could this be your silhouette?

Could this be your silhouette?

But in the midst of a broken rhythm of Disappearing, The Sound of Music is wildly romantic and sexy in a soft and subtle way that Chicago countermands.  The sexiness of The Sound of Music is its concrete link to where sexiness came from: child-bearing.  No, of course, child-bearing doesn’t present well on-screen as an erotic and inspiring moment, but the love-bond between a husband and wife is quite literally manifested in their children.  What makes Maria and Georg’s bond so wonderful is that they love each other so well, especially through their tenderness with The Children, despite the fact that The Children are not Theirs.  It’s the ultimate love story—for the same irrefutable reason that movies as hilarious and quirky as Yours, Mine, and Ours and Cheaper By the Dozen have a timeless effect: real love bears fruit.

Chicago, on the other hand, depicts the empty eroticism of love disjoined from materiality.  Like a strip tease act, it struts upon its stage promising a lot but delivering little—or, when the moment of delivery comes, its rather disappointing and we wish the mystery were still there.

The world of Austria in the ’30s may have required perseverance of a political nature (which political scene creates a lovely tableau for Maria to demonstrate her new role as Georg’s wife, not simply his governess); but the Chicago of the ’20s is the kind of perseverance that doesn’t ennoble humanity but rather betrays it.  In Roxie and Velma we meet women who we wish could have the luxury of love but for whom we know there is no hope if they don’t reject sincere feeling.  Their lives are too damn hard to actually be experienced full-body.

What are you gonna do about it?

What are you gonna do about it?

Yes, Chicago is dazzling and titillating and it makes you want to watch more, but it ultimately dies away at the end, dissipating into a vapor, a remembrance of hard days and harder nights.

Now for the kicker: while reading Anton Chekov’s short story “On Official Business,” I was struck by the following lines:

And [the magistrate] felt that [the insurance agent]’s suicide and the peasant’s misery lay on his conscience, too; to be reconciled to the fact that these people, submitting to their fate, shouldered all that was darkest and most burdensome in life—how terrible that was!  To be reconciled to this, and to wish for oneself a bright and active life among happy, contented people, and constantly to dream of such a life, that meant dreaming of new suicides of men crushed by toil and care, or of weak, forgotten men of whom people only talk sometimes at supper with vexation or sneers, but to whom no help is offered.  And again: “We go on, go on, go on…”

the anxiety of our age

the anxiety of our age

Could it be that The Sound of Music is only possible because of Chicago?  And what I mean, I suppose, when I say that is really: does the rare, high life floating up near Plato’s Ideal Forms and religion’s noblest creeds depend on a substrate of broken lives and wasted toil?  Can Captain Von Trapp play his suit because Amos pays $2000 to be upstandin’?  Is it as devastatingly simple as the fact that raising seven children is terribly expensive, and, of course you can fall in love if you can afford a governess, but God help you if you’re in so deep you invent a child to save your neck from the noose?  Volcanic soil is the richest for harvest, so scientists say…but does anyone ever consider that the ingredients of finer living (organic food, anyone?) come from much accumulated pressure and toil underneath our floor?  Is one man’s ceiling another man’s staircase to paradise?

The injustice of this must topple in the End.

Immersive Media

I used to think—and I still do—that reading is the most immersive media.  In silence, you can transport yourself to entirely Other worlds by yielding up your ghost to the guidance of another Voice.

What absolutely floored me today, however, was my discovery of a new immersive media that almost trumps the implosive power of silent reading: 3D binaural stories.  A [brilliant] friend of mine, Celu Ramasamy, has created a group that is pioneering new storytelling media, and Mind Theater is arresting.  It is reminiscent of radio theater because you listen, but it is spelling binding because it is like 3D film.  Plug in your headphones, run the calibrator, and close your eyes.  The sounds are real.

You can't give in just a little...

You can't give in just a little...

I felt the space around me and caught myself looking over my shoulder just to be sure I wasn’t on the train to India with the Son going home to his Father’s village.  Rain outside their house is near and far simultaneously.  The house is close and hot because the air echos on the bare walls and sits backs down beside me after the last reverberation.  When the Son fills a glass of water for the Father, I know the tap was exactly three feet behind me to the left; he carried it past me to his Father, on my right.

As absorbing and relaxing as this 30-minute aural experience ultimately proved, I was undone by listening to parts of it with my eyes open.  Like the unnerving scene in Hitchcock’s Rebecca when Maxim de Winter recounts a conversation with his deceased wife to an empty room and the camera follows her movements although she isn’t there, so also, I could see the Indian Father and Son walk across my bedroom with their glass of water and dinner in hand.  The front porch where they ate supplanted my computer desk before me, and, while my parakeets flew overhead, delighting in a sojourn about my bedroom, the rain poured out of the Indian sky, drenching my tiny Georgian existence.

That’s when I discovered what makes any media, any experience immersive: exclusion.  Reading takes you places because you close off your other senses, save only your racing eyes.  The new 3D stories take you places because you close off your other senses, save only your ears.  Dessert is the best part of the day when all you do is taste it.  And the touch of a lover is never sweeter than when you completely surrender the other four defenses.  Wholeheartedness is addictive.

Our increasingly stimulating media environment is said to “drown” us, and, yes, your lungs will fail if you open your eyes, your ears, and your mouth, sucking in the ocean with every pore.  But, if you close your eyes, your ears, your mouth, and repeatedly reach out to touch, you will find you can swim.  It is glorious to be absorbed.