06 November 2008

The Big Show


. . . My goodness. Has it been over a week? Yes; yes, it has. It feels almost strange to be writing here again, which just goes to show me that it's not so much how long one spends away from a project that disrupts its cycle, as how drastically one breaks its frequency and rhythm. Writing feels strange, but the thinking has been going on, full-fired pistons, the entire time. The past few days, in fact, have been spent trying to figure out with what exactly this here entry would concern itself. I mean, I had a title (titles are easy, I always have a title), and I knew the general content, but I couldn't find the words to express myself. I was searching for a format, a focus, a shtick . . . and therein lay my block, I think. Some things defy structure; some experiences are unique, if only for one or two of the people involved.

The Big Show did what it was supposed to do, what they've been doing for centuries of human history. You have months and months (and, in some cases, still more months) of build up to this single event, during which time everyone is saying to you in one way or another, "This is a big deal, and your life will not be the same." Okay, you think, but I've been around a few places and seen a few things and really this is just a public acknowledgement of something I've been working on for years. So what surprises can it really hold? I ought to have remembered that even Regular-Sized Shows have the potential to be life-altering experiences, sans pomp, circumstance and hors d'oeuvres. They generally accomplish this by catching you off or coaxing you out of your guard, then hitting you right in your gooey human center.

My personal gooey human center is a ganache of gratitude (yes, I know Heather -- not a filling), and from way back in the process of planning The Big Show, I have been set up for a gratitudinous (is SO a word) fall. My friends flocked to help me and, guys, if you're listening: You're a bunch of total jerks. Don't even try to pretend that the motivation behind your combined support and myriad selfless contributions was well intentioned. It is transparently clear that you rocked my socks off for the express and specific purpose of making me cry and, furthermore, feel like weeping cathartically every time I think of any one of you. What else can I say to you than: Mission accomplished. In spades. You bunch of total jerk-faces.

I can't even bring myself to single persons out for the amazing contributions each of them made. It would belittle it, in a way, because my experience was bigger than can be expressed with my usual pithy, long-winded syntax, even if I used extra-distended vocabulary choices. I've been searching for these last days for some poem to post that will encapsulate it for me. I was swept away. I was not steering the wheel (in spite of multiple U-turns executed in the interests of not accidentally driving my groomsmen to West Virginia). I was completely subject to the experience. It was comparable to a drunkenness, but with intention and clarity. In fact, at times I felt I was drunk on the clarity of each moment -- each lively, open and honest moment. I look back and worry a little that I neglected people in the rush of my experience. Relatives I see once in a blue moon were there, and I said all of ten words to them, and I definitely felt gypped on time spent with friends who travelled from afar to be a part of my wedding. Yet I think of the surprise party thrown by everyone at the day job I've held for nine months, I think of seeing my New York friends against the autumnal Virginia scene, I think of turning around and seeing my best friends from age five on all there at my back . . .

You BUNCH of TOTAL JERKS!

Brecht thought the best work a piece of theatre could accomplish was to present arguments and hold the audience enough at bay that afterward they'd be able to discuss the arguments somewhat objectively. Fighting the complacency that profound catharsis encourages, he wanted theatre to educate. Epic theatre may not necessarily alienate the audience throughout the play; in fact, I find it most effective when it draws us in emotionally at moments, then reminds us that it is a play, and that we have a life separate from it. This preference is part of why I don't actively pursue epic theatre work, but what affinity I have for Brecht is evident in my affection for direct-address of the audience. I like to learn from experiences, to experience the kind of intellectual catharsis that comes of new ideas instead of unexpected or inevitable emotions. Can I be objective at all about my experience of being wed?

One of my favorite pieces of advice leading up to La Grande Mostra was this: Be sure to be there. Practically speaking, very helpful. Also helpful as a reminder that it can be easy in profound moments to feel both outside oneself and caught up in the current, said feelings being possible concurrently, consecutively or all of the above, all at once. So I took that advice to heart, and tried to allow myself moments of observation and moments of sheer, unthinking response. This at times meant wandering around my own reception, perhaps being less receptive to people than they expected, the which I hope they can forgive me. Weddings are supposed to make you feel something, and just maybe they're supposed to make the participants feel something overwhelming, something profound to think (feel) back on when in times of doubt or struggle. Are they also good for learning something? Are there lessons to be had about life in general, and oneself in particular? I believe so. I believe this is the hidden agenda of weddings. Most major rituals and rites of passage involve wrapping something quietly necessary inside of something showy and big.

In the life-in-general category, I'd say the big lesson for me had something to do with learning that some of life's most exciting, dangerous and rewarding adventures can be found in its most widely accepted and "mundane" aspects. The trick is in taking absolutely nothing for granted. Nothing. Easier said than done, I recognize, but then again, why should a wedding lend us a sense of appreciation and not, say, a regular phone call to someone we barely know? Or eating a hot dog (delicious hot dog...) as opposed to wedding cake? So many people have shared with us personal insights that they had as a direct result of experiencing our wedding. I believe such insights are there for us all the time, and that events such as weddings and shows and concerts, etc., serve not as the only conduits to those insights, but rather as reminders that these insights are there to be had at every moment of every given day. I used to view marriage as settling down. What could be more exciting, dangerous and rewarding, than stepping into one's future with that kind of intention and appreciation?

Speaking of personal lessons, mine was simply huge. The hugest I've had since those that led me to propose marriage to Wife Megan. Part of that decision to propose was motivated by an insight I had about how each day needs to be lived as if it could be your last, though not as though it definitely is your last. It's a fine distinction, but once I felt the difference, I could see how important it was that Megan and I commence to weddin'. I could go on and on about the personal intricacies of this realization for me and its relationship to my psyche, but I'd rather not alienate the dozen remaining readers and, besides, I bring it up to emphasize how profound a lesson was mine on the actual day of marriage.

Last Saturday, and in the days since, I have felt such an emotion of gratitude for everyone in my life that it's like my heart is singing. I'm embarrassingly double-wrapping my jacket on the subway to try and mute it a little in consideration of my fellow passengers. I'm disrupting telephone lines with pure sonic vibration. It's ridiculous and self-perpetuating -- the feeling itself inspires more gratitude. I have not the hands I need to write all the deeply felt thank-you letters to everyone, including those we couldn't invite or who couldn't make it. I owe something to everyone, and all I have to give is myself. The lesson, I think, is to give as if each day could be my last. Marriage isn't forming a private partnership, but creating a synergy, a collaboration, in order to offer more to the family at large. I said in my fatally brief speech (I hate public speaking) at the end of the reception that everyone there was family to me now, and I meant it. The best I have and am is only a result of the people I have known and loved.

. . .

. . . Dang it! Again?! Really? Again with the weepiness?

You bunch of total jerks . . .

1 comment:

Greg said...

Oh, they are jerks. You too, a little. I got a bit weepy, too.

Meanwhile, though, some bakers DO use ganache as a filling in wedding cakes. While it's tasty as hell, the stuff gets so hard its nearly impossible for this catering guy to cut a perfectly perpendicular piece.

(I can't believe I didn't think to check in sooner for impressions of the Big Show! Congrats and best wishes are heartily offered, though.)