— From EF —
The Goldberg Infundibulum. Or, if you prefer, the Chronosynclastic Variations.
There are times when I’m going along, minding my own business, and suddenly a word or a phrase comes leaping down from a low-hanging branch and snarls all its paws in my hair. I just got mugged by chronosynclastic infundibulum (from Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan) and was trying to figure out why, and then I started listening to Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and it all became clear.
Very clear, because Murray Perahia’s fingers have made a devil’s deal with the piano, and every note has its own voice, even when among swarms. Walking down a busy city street and seeing every single face clearly would be a similar experience.
Bach gives you an invitation, you walk into the room, and leave by a different door. Thirty doors later, you’re back on the street — in an altered space. Somebody once told me about an experience as a volunteer companion for teens with mental difficulties. He took one young man to a mall, and when they were about to exit a shoe store through its opposite end, an absolute fit was pitched. “If you don’t go out where you came in, you’re in a different world!”
Have you ever had one of those moments when it felt as if there were two realities in the same instant, and you happened to stumble into the one on the right? The one on the left, who knows? For some, prayer may be a way of trying to land in the preferred reality.
Maybe we walk out a different door hundreds of times in a day, and if our realities aren’t part of a connected harmonious whole, we really are in a different world, and we may get very disturbed. But if the connections are there, however far down in the mix, we’ll get by.
— From the Fool —
Today somebody said something that was really awful. I thought to myself, that’s awful, and not something anybody’s mother would want to hear her little kid say, even if she was a big dumb awful mother — she still wouldn’t want to think of her little kid saying it, not even when the kid got big and lumpy.
And if I were a more advanced Fool, like with a master’s degree, I could make it into a joke and people would say, Oh that’s awful, but they’d laugh and drink up.
Or I could just write it down here to get it out of my system. But some stuff makes the plumbing back up so I go on talking about it but don’t say what it is and maybe that makes it even worse because then you think of all the awful things it could be so then it’s you that’s saying’em in your head.
Of course part of the awfulness is what got said and the other part is thinking, Did they mean it? And maybe it’s not so awful if they just said it to be saying something awful, like a little kid would say Poopie peepee! being the most awful thing he could think of.
But you can be pretty sure there are people out there who really mean Poopie peepee! right from the heart. They think about it night and day, and if some guy runs for President on a platform of Poopie peepee! they’ll vote for him in droves.
— From CB —
There seems to be a huge spate of productions of King Lear recently. Why?
Might be just my awareness of the competition. Might be lots of old guys wanting to give it a shot. Might just be theatres jumping on the latest bandwagon. Or might it be that a timely chord is struck by the force of rage in this play?
A great challenge of the role is the temptation to play it all fortissimo. I’ve just survived a runthru of the first half, in which he renounces one daughter, curses the other two, exiles his most loyal liege, erupts at everyone else, and thrusts himself into the storm, where he’ll roar at the gods and all humanity. He struggles for control, but his rage grabs him in the vitals, as implacable as labor pains.
My own rages flow from frustration. I rarely express anger toward people directly: I’m afraid of them or afraid of doing damage or mistrustful of my own righteousness. Objects, though, run serious risk. I can’t hit the computer, so I’ll hit a wall or pound my leg. Knots that won’t come undone, buttons that won’t button, zippers — the only thing more profound than my rage is its farcical absurdity. Those damned little objects are resisting me, denying my grace and my potency, mocking my identity as maker and doer.
Lear’s identity — not just his role but his being — is King. His lifeblood is power. He expects to relinquish his cares but not his power. “Yet hath he ever but slenderly known himself,” Regan says, in an acute moment of perception. He has no clue of being locked inextricably into his addiction. And suddenly, he’s powerless, naked.
To what degree, I wonder, is that loss of power — or the illusion of power — the root source of the rages that spawn the searing headlines? The school shooters, the cops putting eight slugs in a kid, the ranters on cable news, the freeway tailgater, the fanatics burning a man alive, the slow steady drumbeats to war, war, war. The ads promise us the moon, and soon there’ll be found a way to post ads in the womb. We’re told we’re free, but the rent’s outta sight. We used to be citizens, now we’re consumers . . . and so on.
The futile ex-king doesn’t represent any of these precisely, but he finally comes to the core of it all: “I am a very foolish fond old man.” Yes, he is. So are we all. Our greatest wisdom would come through knowing our foolishness. Such a long, impossible journey, and yet we might walk around the corner and come face to face with ourself.
So yesterday, our first runthru of the first half of King Lear. A few blank moments, but gratified that I felt I’d have enough energy to play the second half. Although I said, “Good thing that at the end of this play I can die.” Till the next performance at least.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2015