So over at NANO Fiction, we’re doing a series about authors and social media, and we’ve gotten great commentary from folks like Farren Stanley and Justin Daugherty. I have a piece up there as well, though as I joked on Twitter, they asked me to write about social media, but I sent them a piece about my first love.
And that’s really my way of saying that things are really just all connected, that all the love and loveliness in the world are intermingled with the grief and guilt. It is always all going on.
I saw an interesting physical manifestation of this last week at SLEEP NO MORE, Punchdrunk Theater’s version of Macbeth staged in a warehouse made to look like a 1930’s hotel. The drama unfolds over five floors of rooms. You pick a character to follow, or don’t. You miss some things. You see some you didn’t expect. The characters will move you out of the way if you’re in their way. They’ll touch you. Apparently sometimes they’ll even make out with you, though I’m grateful that didn’t happen to me (Macbeth did grab my hands at one point, fell to his knees before me, then whispered a line from the play into my ear. His skin was cold and clammy, the way I used to imagine a reptile would feel like, back in the days before I knew that reptiles feel dry, mostly smooth, often warm from basking). But that whispering was crucial—the play is mostly silent, without much spoken dialogue, and what is said is transmitted quietly, to only a person or two, and not declaimed with projection from a central stage for all to hear. And unlike in traditional drama, in which a character who’s offstage is assumed to be inactive, here, there is no offstage. Everything counts. There is always a storyline unfolding. The words that are spoken matter, even if you do not hear them uttered.
I have been thinking about this a lot, and it also brings to mind Auden’s “Musee des Beaux Arts,” with its juxtaposition of suffering with the quotidian. Possibly that’s because as I returned to my hotel late that night after the show, after a really just perfect day with lots of people I love (one of my favorite grad school profs who’s transformed into a lovely friend and role model and colleague; a cousin I’m so proud of who’s doing a summer internship in NYC and coming into her own identity in such lovely and confident ways; a friend and editor who lives in France but was visiting family & who stole an afternoon to take us to all his favorite old neighborhood haunts; one of my dearest Tuscaloosa friends; one of his favorite family members), I encountered a really dramatic scene: as I’d stepped off the train, a boy had jumped off a Brooklyn rooftop. I walked out of the subway station and directly into the crowd of his friends screaming not to move him, begging into their phones for 911 to send someone really fast. The boy (man?) was dead, of course, though the response teams came. The sirens sounded for several hours, and I could hear them from my hotel room as I readied for bed, drank tea, washed my face—the late night business traveler’s 21st century version of Auden’s “walking dumbly along.”
And I have known since it happened that I could do nothing. And I have been thinking since it happened about how I could do nothing.
Today I played Year Walk, a game based on Swedish folklore and cultural tradition. It made me cry. It was beautiful. I kind of loved it. And now that I think of it, that’s a pretty apt description of the world at large and of most of the things and people I love:
Sometimes you move me to tears. Often you are still beautiful. Always, there’s Iove.