You know me and my rainy days. I was going to write a poem about my feelings on this gloriously rainy morning, but I lost the patience for composition and decided to just explain it directly.
I am paralyzed and terrorized by choices. I get one rainy day and yet I want to spend it six ways from Sunday. To live in sweats for the day, to read, listen to thoughtful music, and to stare out the window or close your eyes and imagine every place you've ever heard the rain pattering. To run in it, splash in it, taste it as it runs off your lips. To laugh when you realize it's just in that moment that it's soaked through the last dry stitch. To keep walking in it anyway. To put on something fancy and show off that dapper new umbrella by walking the downtown streets taking black and white photographs, stopping in for soup and a beer. To drive up the coast, to see it peppering the ocean waves, turning the sand dark. I want to do it all. Yet there is only one choice that can be made, of course. Sometimes that simple truth is hard to accept and the satisfaction of living one of them is lost for not living all of them. Then there's mornings like this one where there is no choice at all, where I sit in a line to exit the freeway for work while the coast-bound traffic whooshes by, calling to me to swerve from obligation.
In other news...
We cashed in my birthday present yesterday, up close and personal seats to the play "Our Town," by Thornton Wilder, starring Helen Hunt. I say up close and personal rather than front row, because of the unique setup of this show. There was no stage. The play was performed on the floor of the theatre, with bleachers for seating behind us lucky folks sitting in chairs lining the performance area, inches from the actors and the action. At one point early on, Helen Hunt was standing directly behind me, over me you might say, addressing the audience. Yes, my heart fluttered. The house lights barely dimmed. This was in-your-face theater, literally. The intimacy was not just a gimmick. This was "Our Town," this was about Us, so there we were, seeing ourselves and the play, seeing the play in ourselves. Can you tell yet that I was a bit floored? It's over twenty-four hours later and I am still feeling affected by it. The third act, about death, was nothing short of profound. (Spoiler alert: If you plan to see (or read) the play, read no further)
It opens in a cemetery, with the dead speaking from their graves, welcoming the newest arrival, Emily, a character we have seen develop from a child, to a young woman in love, to an adult afraid of growing up, and now, into the afterlife. She realizes she can go back, she can relive any day she wants, and she is told that, yes, this is true. But she is also warned not to do it, that it's not what she expects, and that she will only turn and come back. Of course, she goes anyway. Suddenly, the Stage Manager (Hunt) pulls back a curtain at one end of the theatre and this sparse production that has thus far used primarily our imaginations for its props and scenery, gives way to an amazingly realistic set, a quaint kitchen and dining room with working stove. Emily's mother is there making bacon and when the smell reaches you, you're there too. The richness of this set contrasted with the starkness of everything we'd seen up to that point was like a nail into the heart. Her mother is there, her father as well, and even though they can see her and hear her and speak to her, it's not the same. Now that Emily has witnessed beauty on an extra-worldly level, it's too difficult, too confusing for her to exist with those who can't see it. I think she has a line about no one having time to look each other in the eyes long enough. She says goodbye for good and returns to the cemetery.
As I laid in bed last night, my mind was occupied with this third act, giving way (any topic thought of in bed always gives way to a dozen others) to thoughts of death, or more specifically, the afterlife. Let me just stipulate right from the beginning that I don't believe it's possible for us to comprehend what the afterlife actually is. I think it's beyond our abilities as humans to understand. And yet who can help but to ponder the possibilities. What if my rainy day conundrum speaks in some way to what it means to move on after death? Maybe it means that you don't have to choose where to go or what to do because you are everywhere at once. Every place you could ever be, you are. Every experience you could possibly have, you are having, simultaneously. The question of where are you, what are you doing holds no meaning. What if the most beautiful, joyous moments we'll ever know in this world are merely a view through a pinhole to a flickering candle in the next room? Perhaps what awaits us is to become the fire itself. Maybe to leave our bodies is not merely to lose shape or to fade to black, but to lose the separation between the inner consciousness and the outer world. We would no longer give love or receive love to and from the others we meet, we would be love itself as it exists among everything that ever was. If God is love, we would be ultimately united. I don't think I could walk away from that either.
Forgive me for getting all mystical. I assure you, I am not under the influence of any controlled substances, unless by way of flashback. I hope you can at least appreciate my inspiration, if not where it led me. I believe that art at its best inspires us to better understand ourselves and our world, provoking questions if not providing answers. "Our Town," to me, most certainly did that. Not bad, Mr. Wilder. To be fair and to perhaps diffuse my effusiveness, I didn't walk out of the theatre with my hair turned white. I wasn't bawling or walking on air. In fact, as we drove away from the theatre, towards the sun setting into the seeming eternity of the Pacific Ocean, we decided to go shopping. I know.