Friday, June 5


I did mean to write yesterday, but the whole day rushed away around me and there was too much doing to leave time for writing. such is the glory of summer spontaneity. there was music and running-into-colleagues and chatting and sitting in the shade and running errands with dear neighbor Lena and meeting friend Liz for Shakespeare.

93.2% of the things friend Liz and I ever do together involve Shakespeare. that's just how things go. I love it.

last evening it was this performance of Antony and Cleopatra. I hadn't seen the play yet. I probably read it once upon a time but that hardly is the same. words on a page are no real preparation for the passion and humor and blood of live Shakespearean tragedy.

it was an interesting show. characters all impetuous and full-hearted, dancing, proclaiming, vowing and worrying and lamenting. all so mad with feelings. Cleopatra's dramatic, insecure devotion is both hard yet easy to relate to. Antony's love-born madness even harder, but so textured and ragged and tangible in its performance. from the first scene, the two of them looked so wrapped up in happiness and each other. but they are also wrapped up in war, and thus they become a little bit doomed.

today I'm thinking about feelings and stories.

no story is totally accurate. not a single one could ever be as detailed or as messy or as true or immediate as actual life. Marc Antony and Cleopatra were historical figures and they lived real lives. the story we saw on stage last night was not an echo of those lives, not a record or a reenactment. Shakespeare was not trying to be educational. and even if he were, accuracy and exactness are not really the point of stories. or of any kind of art. it's impossible. the idea of a true story seems almost an oxymoron.

I really like telling stories, and I've recently had occasion to wonder why this is. what is so satisfying about lining up moments and drawing little threads of narrative between them? why is piecing together this and that observation into a coherent beginning-middle-end so much fun?

no answers. but I suspect some part of it is because there is a power in it. telling stories is powerful. storyteller and audience both get some sense of mastery over what life might mean. making a story out of a complicated, unorganized set of memories becomes a way of controlling the vastness of the whole universe around us. I think we are allowed to expect some stories from each other, to expect to share and shape all the work of sense-making in whatever modes we can.

and when we can wrap and weave our feelings into these stories, and share some of that visceral, consuming emotional color with other people via some bundled beginnings-middles-ends, that's even more powerful. or it can be. sometimes it doesn't work. feelings are complicated and personal. they don't always translate well.

my own fits and flights of irritation and of delight sometimes fit into amusing and/or poignant stories. it's satisfying when they do. when I can write them and rewrite them and re-explain them all to myself on paper, in words, out loud. it seems very useful to me. I think I've written about this before, in a previous life, from a different sort of crossroads.

and when the feelings and the narratives don't quite seem made for each other, that doesn't stop me from trying. maybe with enough revision, enough rewriting, enough additions as my experiences expand, they will all make useful story-pieces someday.

No comments: