Mine Was Always That
3/13/14, Day 13,804: Mine Was Always That
“CLOV: Do you believe in the life to come?
HAMM: Mine was always that.
–Endgame, Samuel Beckett”
“It tikleth me aboute myn herte roote –
Unto this day it dooth myn herte boote
That I have had my world as in my time.”
-The Wife of Bath, Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
This day is so named for the famous quote from Beckett’s Endgame, juxtaposed above against its anti-particle, The Wife of Bath. I do not believe in the life to come, unless it is the life of Whitman’s grass, and yet in the past few days, with the arrival of my younger playwright self, I have allowed myself to believe in a kind of hereafter.
Oh, not a god or heaven; my soul lacks legs for such leaps. I have of late recommitted myself to submitting plays for opportunities, something I do irregularly at best, and it is a melancholy activity; not because the odds for success are so low (though they are), nor that even when success comes, it is underwhelming (though it usually is), but that in submitting, I spend time with the characters from my old plays, and wonder if they will ever see the light of stage again (or at all).
It’s an odd and privileged problem to have: to be surrounded by characters you love, and to worry that when you’re gone, there will be no one left to hold them to the light and listen. Yet this is why I submit less than I should; because it makes me feel as if I’m birthing a bunch of children who will walk only a short ways over the long cliff of oblivion. I would so like them to have their world as in their time…
But what if they do have their world, only not in my time? If I believe that years from now, when I’m gone, these characters will find their stages in the hearts of people I will never know, then, my melancholy disappears, evaporating under the heat of an imaginary sun. It is a lie, of course; the cumulative disadvantage that Christine Evans writes about so brilliantly in regards to our exclusive, unjust stages doesn’t end when we do; the myth of the artist discovered after death is a hunt for unicorns. So little of the great work written today will endure, and that’s as it should be, for our profession is already too-anchored by nostalgia to reach new shores.
But it is an effective, useful lie: if, when I send my plays out, I pretend my characters are messages in bottles bound for temperate isles that they cannot miss, it makes the sending more sweet than sad.
“…Sometimes in late summer I won’t touch anything, not
the flowers, not the blackberries
brimming in the thickets; I won’t drink
from the pond; I won’t name the birds or the trees;
I won’t whisper my own name.
the fox came down the hill, glittering and confident,
and didn’t see me—and I thought:
so this is the world.
I’m not in it.
It is beautiful.”
-Mary Oliver, October
In this way, I understand completely those who believe in an afterlife, even in a God; if I believe in these islands where my characters will one day find a shore, then I can live all the way in this world once more, and not spend my thoughts trying to pay someone else’s reckoning.
Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…
Writing: 63 out of 73 days (Faust)
Spanish: 62 out of 73 days
What small things did I do the yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)
- For Flux, posted the Flux Sunday report;
- Signed Amnesty International’s petition to my Senators to support U.S./U.N. aid reaching starving, besieged, communities in Syria;
- Signed the Emily’s List petition to Greg Abbott in support of gender parity in wages for women in Texas;
- Signed a petition asking Governor Christie to end his opposition to electric cars;
- Cooked and ate all vegetarian meals (mostly organic, some local) and added no direct food waste (plastics bags, plastic water bottles, etc.);