Native of the Air

(Why am I naming days?)

1/27/14, Day 13, 781: Chappy is a Native of the Air

“I don’t need to buckle up, I’m a native of the air, anytime I’m on the ground I need my passport.”

This day is so named for the first time the character of Chappy–Lynnie’s grandfather in The Sea Concerto— was read aloud. It was at the Lark’s Playwright Workshop, and, as often happens, hearing the character speak began to warp the shape of the rest of the play. Ideas started flowing about Jimbo and Janet’s relationship, about Penny and Lynnie, and I had to actively focus on listening to the rest of the great scenes because all I wanted to do was write.

I haven’t written too much about the Workshop, as it feels like a betrayal of the charged intimacy that gives the program its value, but last night, our featured guest Terrence McNally and host Arthur Kopit had a fascinating chat about playwrights who reveal (Shakespeare) and playwrights who conceal (Chekhov) and how each way carries great power. Listening to scenes from Lynn Nottage (how she lands the right kind of laugh in a rhythm that carries a serious scene along, and writes phrases only the characters that speak them would ever say that exact way); Kimber Lee (who manages to make the awkward fragments of how we misspeak glimmer like light on water); Christopher Oscar Peña (ah, the sweet ache of his distant intimacies and intimate distances); and Rogelio Martinez (his capacity to drive an epic political story on the comic errors and eros of the human heart); I think again how lucky I am to be in that room, and leave feeling like a native of the air…

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 24 out of 28 days (The Sea Concerto)
Spanish: 25 out of 28 days

What small things did I do the past five days to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?)

Why this last note? Because a conversation with David Marcus on Facebook made a soul-pot that had been long a-simmer come to a boil. I drink 1-2 beers most nights, and most days purchase 1-2 cups of coffee from Starbucks. Now, that would be fine…except, if I truly believe this (from FB conversation with David about income inequality):

“There are some happiness studies that show that once certain basic needs are met, an increase in wealth does not substantially increase happiness, but that a perception of inequality does lead to greater unhappiness. So I might come at the question by first making sure that Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms are extended to the entirety of the human species, itself a huge endeavor that will take generations; then, after freedom from want and fear are universally established, I’d hope to make good on America’s promise of equal opportunity, which would mean certain guarantees for education, community well-being and health care are met across the globe; and finally, I’d think about setting a ratio for income inequality that, if we went over, that excess wealth would be redistributed to scientific research/arts & humanities that would benefit the whole of humanity; and this ratio (i.e., no human would have access to more than 20 times the resources of any other human) would be democratically decided and evolve based on circumstances.All of these steps would need to be accomplished through the democratic process and/or private charity/enterprise, and would be rolled out over generations to avoid system shock. I don’t think these goals are achievable without a fundamental shift in human values, and part of that shift most definitely involves Americans reconsidering our inequitable and possibly unsustainable use of the planet’s resources. I agree with your phrase that you cannot legislate the human heart, and if this process looks like anything like a communist dictatorship, we’re sunk. But I don’t think it’s impossible to imagine what an equal world could look like, nor impossible to get there together, just damn hard:)

Then David is write to ask:

“Doesn’t the same moral imperative that leads you to believe an income inequality ratio should be established – to take money from those who have too much – apply to us every time we go out for sushi? Shouldn’t a global government take our sushi money and give it to starving people? Your utopia seems to leave little in the way of individual rights, especially individual rights to property. But I admire your internationalism, and share it.”

And I am required to answer:

“David, I definitely don’t want to take sushi away from all of us, though I probably do place lower value on individual property rights than you do. I think a democratic people can choose, at both the personal and legislative levels, to redistribute resources in a more equitable way, though the balance of incrementalism vs urgency and freedom vs parity is always going to be thorny and the devils and angels are in the details…I say all this to first goad myself to live up to that philosophy before convincing anyone else.”

Now, as a vegetarian, I don’t eat much sushi, but the principle is the same. Whenever you buy something, you assume a responsibility for it, and that means knowing, whenever possible:

  • Where it came from,
  • Where it will go when you’re done with it, and
  • How much it costs, in money and resources, along the way, because…
  • Every purchase is an ethical choice.

Every purchase is an ethical choice. I’m not a bad person for drinking 1-2 beers a night, but I might be a better one if I remembered every purchase is an ethical choice and spent (or saved) that money elsewhere.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’ll never have a beer again, but I hope it means that when I do, I’ll do so conscious of the ethical choice I’m making.

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