— From the Fool —
My dad used to say there’s three possibilities. It’s all bullshit. Or it’s all true. Or it’s both.
I can’t help but agree.
— From CB —
Sunday, on the overcast beach, I see three figures standing near a huge rock outcropping in the distance. I just happened to look up from my afternoon picnic lunch and saw them, nothing more to me than tiny moving dots, one possibly a child, but as distant from me as three figures on a beach in Somalia.
What brought them there this afternoon? What brought them together at some point so that now they move as connected dots? What chain of chances resulted in their standing together by this rock, or for me to see them at this moment and then later write about this trivial happenstance? What chain will lead them to their separate erasures?
As a dramatist, I’m always looking for plots that are like Google driving directions: here’s the destination, take a right turn here, etc., and you’ll get there in three hours, barring the unexpected. We depend on our instinct of cause and effect as we depend on gravity, and we violate it at our peril. There aren’t many movies where, in the midst of the action and with no foreshadowing, the hero just has a heart attack and dies. We need the sense of a higher power or the operation of a lethal metaphor. The writer has to invest it with some sort of meaning that makes it part of a world where we can get a solid footing. In the end, we know that the detective will catch the crook, or else he won’t — but in either case the end will carry meaning. For a moment, at least, we’ll know if the world is beautiful or if it’s dead rotten, and there’s a secure footing either way.
But we’re ill-suited to the operation of chance. We know that the best poker players get dealt cards, over the long haul, that are no different than those of the duffers, but they sense how to ride the bucking bronco of chance. To me, that was the process that brought those three tiny dots into my view on Sunday, and what brought me along the strange winding decades, with my beloved, to see them in that moment.
— From EF —
Abuse of power, it’s all over the news, but nothing new. We see the fruits of status quo in blood on the streets, blood soaking the sand, blood staining the frat-party sheets. We know we should do something, right the imbalance, but don’t see a clear path. Nor can we see what might happen afterward, even if we miraculously did the right thing.
I know from experience how hard it is to recover from childhood abuse, how much it takes to walk away from the path of unwilling repetition. The flagrant obscenity of the Holocaust is not unrelated to the inhumanity being visited on Palestine. We become our shadow, unless we are willing to walk the painful path of self-knowledge and change.
This is part of what we’re exploring in King Lear. Lear’s decision to divide his kingdom, give his lands to his daughters, and allow himself to “unburthen’d crawl toward death” misfires. He wildly misjudges his own ability to surrender his absolute power and disowns his favorite daughter when she refuses to compete in his idiotic how-much-do-you-love-me contest. He then turns vicious to the elder daughters when they dare to suggest that his passel of knights are impossible house guests, going so far as to curse Goneril’s fertility: “Into her womb convey sterility, dry up in her the organs of increase. . .”
When they find that power is now in their hands, the daughters become as harsh as the father. They become the shadow. Lear makes a dramatic exit into a howling night-storm, and they lock the gates behind him. He was a king; now he’s a childless witless homeless beggar. In time, his agony brings true change, but the wheel has turned too far for a happy ending.
And what about us? Our species doesn’t have a good track record of using power benignly, and the reins are not willingly released. Recent events are rattling the cage. What happens next?
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© Bishop & Fuller 2014