54 Pi Rent Obscure

Four points of interest whirling in my brain right now preventing sleep, well, and the diet coke that was addictively consumed too late in the day.

I read a few weeks ago for the first time recently Life of Pi.
I am currently reading, and nearly finished with Jude the Obscure.
I watched (admittedly) with both of children four times last week Rent, the movie.
I watched this evening with Tyler, Mike Myers' 1998 film, 54.

They are all merging in ways that represent where I want to be, how I want to live, and the types of relationships I hope to maintain.

The last twelve months of my life have turned me upside down. So I pierced the inner cartilage of my ear and am seriously considering a highly visible tattoo on my right forearm. (Who says rebellion only happens when we're teenagers?) But more significantly, the disillusionment I am undergoing with all things God, no religious, and (ok fine) yes, God, leave me exhausted and well, depressed. Enter Life of Pi.

Holy Cow this book is amazing.
Fact vs. Narrative.
Modernity vs. Postmodernity.
Concrete data vs. Experiential reality.

Pi says this early on his own narrative:
"What of God?"..."An intellect confounded yet a trusting sense of presence and of ultimate purpose. I can well imagine an atheist's last words: 'White, White! L-L-Love! My God!"--and the deathbed leap of faith. Whereas the agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden to dry, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, "Possibly a f-f-failing of oxygenation of the b-b-brain," and, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story."

Stunning. How does one articulate so fully with mere words such a colossal theodicy? This is a hermeneutic I've been struggling to find since I audited my first grad class at Yale Divinity. Which is the better perspective--dry yeastless factuality that always makes sense, sees death as only a cessation of oxygen? Or is it the story, albeit embellished, but the lens full of adventure, love, and mystery? Damn you modernity for convincing us that we have to have this God thing so well figured out. Thank you Yann Martel for reminding me that the story is what fulfills us. How, then, even when our rafts are lost at sea, our food rations growing sparse, hungry tigers lurk beneath us in the life boat, all amidst the threatening silence of God do we still reject dry, yeastless factuality as the only spectacle with which to see? I want, even in the mystical silence of hurt and trauma to claim the unintelligible, imaginative, sustaining, and intellectually confounding presence of a god. or of grace. or of peace. not of having answers or certitude. but of a comforting presence inspite of life's shipwrecking storms.

Rent. What a musical. What a show. (I was lucky enough to see one of its last Broadway performances a few years ago.) What a message to try and capture on film. While I don't love the story rearrangement in the film, it's hard not to adore anything that is going to promote Tay Diggs' gleaming whites while he is, (steal my heart away) singing no less! (Breathe, Lauren.) Every time I hear or watch or see this I can't help but walk away from it thinking, "This is it. Community. Pure and simple." --when in actuality community is messy, controversial, and a sum of broken parts trying to make a whole. Confused sexuality, homosexuality, heterosexuality awry with AIDS, "lezzies, dykes, cross-dressers too," so the lyrics go...
drugs, depression, unmet dreams, destroyed dreams, fear of dreaming for more, betrayal, fear, and yet, the tenderness of acceptance that only comes when we allow ourselves to be so brutally vulnerable and honest. It's the community in which I want to live.

Liv asked me if Maureen and Joanne are married because they love each other like I love daddy. I responded yes, of course. And she did not think another thing of it. Nevermind that it's two women. She also is convinced that Angel is an actual female. Sometimes we have to watch twice her first appearance in the film as "she" Angel. It mesmerizes both my kids, the entire film does. And well, perhaps for me the show culminates prematurely with their gathering on the F train to sing about escaping the hardships of urban dwelling with the dream of opening up a restaurant in Santa Fe. So much more to say on this, but I'll leave it at that. I want to live such a fantastically honest, real, uncompromising, and supportive existence in equally close proximity to my own friends.

Studio 54 offered to me the competing end of the spectrum. Here the drugs, sex, rock and roll (does disco count?), dancing, and money arrested community. Brokenness lead to no community or wholeness in this film. A place built to host the never ending party, Studio 54 entertained every Hollywood A-lister in New York City. Andy Warhol (whom you know I adore), Truman Capote, models galore, even California's govenator, 'course he wasn't governor then. How ironic then that those at the party are so isolated from one another. How willing we are to buy into the illusion that we can cover our hurts and despair by cranking the music a little louder, staying out a little later, and topping off our glass of champagne just one more time. (At least, this is part of what I keep coming back to in my reflections on Steve, the owner's life. He died at 45, went to jail for tax evasion, and was a closeted homosexual. All so tragic.) His own party was an effort to ignore the narrative that was being written around him. Or was it an attempt to rewrite one with more pizazz? I don't know.

I go back to Pi's wonderings here. At what point do we give way to our realities and chuckle with maybe a healthy dose of cynicism and say, well, death is what happens when you smoke, drink, and drug too much. Isn't that the dry, yeastless factuality? What makes the story so interesting (to me right now) is the possibilities of something better...a place in Santa Fe. A place where the opportunity to party is still present and even enjoyed, but it's something new that can be experienced with people you love. Even when your girlfriend commits suicide and informs you that you have AIDS in a note, you can still creatively join together in a fusion of something more. God, still, is silent, but the story writes on.

And finally Jude, the Obscure. The title makes it for me. He wants to be special, arrive in his beloved city of Christminster to dwell and stimulate his mind with fellow learned men. But the obscurity of his story off-sets the reader from ever fully falling in love with this character. Just as his old professor mistakenly bought a piano and was forced to drudge the thing around with him, even though he can't even really play the dumb thing, Jude married the wrong fling and his dreams of education and later clericalism suffer and ultimately die. He deems himself too unprivileged to stay in Christminster after one too many rejection letters from his favored institutions, and he flees his studies of the divine when the temptation to love his married cousin grow too fevered and lustrous. His nomadic quests for meaning and fulfillment only leave him evermore resentful of his absent wife and personal disillusionment. For Jude, God's silence serves as a trap, from which he cannot escape. His obscurity and normalcy trap him into an entirely different cynicism. One that he vowed never to cover up again with strong drink or other "blasphemous ways."

All this to say...
I need a drink and a smoke! (haha, I crack myself up.) I think I'm going to go to church tomorrow at Broadway UCC. (We'll see, I haven't made it there yet.) But I need people right now to gather 'round me and by the sheer power of example shove me back into the narrative. Living out of cynicism leaves me angry, discontent, and honestly, wanting another glass of wine when I've finished the first few. What about a narrative that is not about getting it right or missing the mark? It's not a narrative about whether or not what the Bible says really happened.It's not about what works for me should work for you. Instead, it's a story about inspiration, love, and life. It's definitely the pieces that keep things interesting, keep us from getting lost in our own despair, and like Pi and the cast of Rent, remind us of what life is really all about-- It's a narrative where marriages are broken, cancer cells continue to grow, and lay-offs persist. Yet, these facts aren't all there is to it. There is a tiger in the boat. An island covered in deadly algae, and a Mexican infirmary just when Pi needs it the most. A narrative that saves Mimi that night Roger finds her in the park, and enables the rest of the cast to celebrate Angel's vision of peace while they mourn his loss.

Final thought. It's not lost on me that all of these works are incredibly dated by today's cultural milieu. Rent came out in the mid '90's. Studio 54 was an entire generation before me. Thomas Hardy wrote Jude the Obscure a gazillion years ago, and Yann Martel is a product of the '60's. These stories are dated, yet timeless. I love the puzzle of finding my own piece in their retellings.

I also need to start meditation on a regular basis. I f I can, I'd love to do this in a buddhist community. We'll see where and how that chapter follows church tomorrow. Peace. I want to stand on this stage and measure my life by the love I give and receive. That's one helluva story.

1 comment:

KDJ said...

i live for stories.