— From the Fool —

It was drizzling. On Main Street this lady went past with some guy who was a blur, but she had a yellow windbreaker and a tee-shirt that mumbled something on the front. “I wish it’d rain and stop just plurping.”

I couldn’t get that out of my head. What was the matter with drizzle? But maybe plurp had more of a drip to it, not to mention droop or piddle or slop. Maybe if it wormed its way into the language it’d be one tiny step toward communication, maybe mutual understanding, maybe world peace. Maybe it just needed one new word. But how to make that be?

You could go on Facebook and start a viral message on plurp. Or a plurp hashtag on Twitter: you could just type “It’s plurping out” 600 times a day and people would pick it up if they thought it was the next big thing. You could put up a Plurpists United website and get followers from the NSA wondering what you were up to. You could start a petition drive: people will sign anything if they’re desperate enough. You could hire lobbyist to pass a law if you figured some way to make big bucks from plurpification.

Or you could just walk around saying “I wish it’d rain and stop plurping” and hope people would pick it up.

But then, do we really need more words to describe what’s out there? Wouldn’t that be like inviting one more feral cat to the cat-food bowl or one more pimple on your nose? If words have plurped the world into the mess it’s in, do we need one more?

Maybe better just to stick with the drizzle.

— From CB —

The Fool. In the text of King Lear, he’s a string of caustic jokes, with no life or relationship except to Lear. We only know that since Cordelia’s exile he’s “much pined away.” After the storm scene he disappears from the play. “And my poor fool is hang’d,” Lear laments at the end, perhaps confusing the Fool with his daughter, perhaps not. He’s an undefined cipher.

In most productions, the allusion to Cordelia (and the speculation that the two might have been played by the same actor) results in a “much pined-away” Fool, a young poetic waif rather like Feste, who clings to Lear like a leech. But why would Lear would keep a fool like that? Would Lear be a fan of Bergman movies?

An old Fool makes a bit more sense. Yes, Lear addresses him as “boy,” but the Fool comes back at him with the same. We can imagine a fool who’s been with him for decades, an old mangy dog with runny eyes who snaps and bites but who can’t be put out of his misery. Those bedroom slippers have never fit, but they’re yours.

Which brings up the question: what draws us to a particular comedian? Comics depend on the funny lines, their arrangement, their timing, but the memorable souls express a quintessence of character: the loser, the non-stop chatterbox, the show-off, the quiet dignitary, the disenchanted, the madcap, the normal guy with a screw loose.

Several years ago, I stood a long time before Velazquez’ painting of Sebastian de Morra, a court dwarf. Great dignity in his eyes, rage in his fists. It’s that rage that informs our Fool. In the history of fools and freaks kept by nobility over millennia, there’s a vast diversity: those who are skilled entertainers, those who merely drool, those who mock the guests and are in turn kicked and spat on and forced to eat from the dog dish. This Fool is an insult comic, a Don Rickles, but not doing it just as shtick — he doesnt really mean that! — but from the depth of his soul. Does that work? We’ll see. The key is what it does to our understanding of Lear himself.

Why did Shakespeare abandon the Fool at the end of Act 3? Where has he gone? For me, he’s entered into Lear, as Mad Tom has, and both the insanity and the brutal wit take shape in Lear’s madness. Maybe in Act 4 Lear should wear the red nose.

— From EF —

Friends of ours just got married. They have been living and loving and working together for twenty-five years, but recent health issues made it prudent to formalize their bond. I wish I could have been there, but settled for getting roses and rice and lighting a candle at the announced time.

Last May, our son and his lady offered the formalization of their union to their witnesses in a quiet Quaker-based ceremony of stunning beauty in a redwood grove.

A number of friends have married their long-term partners recently, because now it’s legal.

The first wedding CB and I had was more than fifty years ago, an opulent outdoor event with scores of guests, only three of whom were close to us. The rest were my parents’ business friends, hardly a part of our world. More than thirty years later, we did a handfasting ritual in a festival grove, bearing witness to our union in the presence of friends and lovers and entranced passers-by.

As a species, we connect with each other, but it manifests in different ways. We like to think that love is the primary driving force, and sometimes it is. There is the yearning and the desire and finally the bonding, and then the long, long story begins.

Love is one driving force. Rage is another, and hatred. Pogroms and lynchings ignite quickly and burn with hideous heat, and those who participate are in intense connection. It happens fast, and the amygdala gets a huge jolt. Ask anyone who’s seen military action about the bonds forged in that crucible.

There’s a big difference between a mob and a marriage, but at some level both are about connection. We have been immersed in an instant-gratification fast-food culture for a long time. There’s a big difference between grabbing a gun and taking a hand, and some of that difference lies in how long it takes for the story to play out.

Can patience be taught?


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© Bishop & Fuller 2015

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