Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

19 December 2009

is our life already scripted, or do we hold the pen to our own script?

OK, so I knew that someone somewhere said there were only a certain number of plotlines in the world. . . I thought it was only seven, or ten, but I just did a Google search on "number of plotlines," and found a most informative website from "Ming the Mechanic," where Ming describes the 36 plotlines. It's amazing what you can find with a Google search. Here's the link if you're interested:

The problem with Ming's 36 plotlines is that they're all tragedies. Why the hell must all these plot lines be tragedies? They range from Supplication, the Revenge, to Deliverance, to Revolt to Abduction, to Family Murder, to Madness. . . . isn't there one single great plotline that involves a good long belly laugh?

I divert from the subject line, which I'm prone to do. But let me first comment on the 36 plotlines and why I think they are all tragedies. Humans are so obsessed with their own death. Because we fear it so much. We know that is ultimately where we are all headed, so we obsess over it and fetishize it. Tragic form itself revolves around death, and the obsession with death. We find a terrific relief when we look it in the eye, when we encounter head-on those human impulses that expedite it. Many have said that humans love to watch horror films and read horror stories, because they make us feel relief that we are not the ones suffering.

Comedy, however, is the genre of the moment. It asks us to not think about linear time and instead turn our attention to this very instant, and find something to laugh about within it. That may be why none of the great plot lines are comedies - plots, by their very nature, are temporal. As old Aristotle says, (and no, I was not alive when Aristotle was around, I just enjoy reading him every now and then, just like I enjoy reading the Book of Genesis, the Koran, the poetry of Rumi, and Shakespeare), a good tragic plot should involve one single, complete action that preferably occurs over an uninterrupted period of time. Yes, ultimately, tragedy is the genre of time, and our struggling with the implications of living in narrative time.

Narrative time is an interesting idea. Narrative, on its most basic level, involves a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Kind of like life. We are born, we live out a rather long middle section, and then we die. Narrative time. Life, ultimately, is a narrative. The question is: how much power do we have over that narrative? And must it fit into one of those 36 narratives?

They say art imitates life -- or does life imitate art? It can be hard to say. Perhaps those 36 narratives are actually the sum total of all the possible lives that might be lived, and the one we draw is pretty muck the luck of the draw.

I recently experienced the death of a dear friend, someone so close I might call her sister. She did not do much in her life, as far as I know. For about 15 years, he worked as a secretary in a vacuum cleaner company; she worked very hard, and faced each day with a smile. She had friends, mostly female, with whom she would meet regularly for lunch or dinner or a movie. She never married. At the age of 46, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fairly soon after she learned the cancer had metastasized. She fought against this horrible alien visitor for over six years, and ultimately it won. Thankfully, she died in her sleep.

I just summarized her public life to the best of my ability in a paragraph. There may have been more of it, that I never saw. There was, of course, the story she told herself everyday, as she woke up and worked her way through her days. No high drama, just the normal drama of clipping coupons, drinking tea, and loving her friends. That is surely not within the 36 plots.

Now my life, on the other hand, has been far from mundane. Recently, I have felt I was intangled in a plot far greater than myself. Unfortunately, it could fall within the 36 plots; it could be a Revenge plot, or an Abduction plot, or a Madness plot, or a Crime of Love. Most likely a Crime of Love. And this is where I get a bit concerned over the fact that none of these 36 plots are comedies.

There is the toll of the bell of fate packed within this for me. Am I locked into a plot that I cannot escape? Is my Turkish friend Ihsan correct, and was my fate sealed on my forehead before I was even born? Or do we have the power to rewrite our lives? To alter them to our own desires?

If my fate is written on my forehead, and if that fate must abide by one of those 36 plots, then I'd say I'm screwed. I've lived for a very very long time, and suddenly I'm faced with the very real possibility that there may be a madman who could snap at any minute and decide he wants me dead. That's right; that's precisely what I'm dealing with. Or can I change that story? Do I have the power to revise my own fate?

I have been working so far to change the story. And if I can, this blog will continue. Inshallah. For now I'm tired. Good night, dear dark cyber world.

14 December 2009

Time passes in the blink of an eye when you're as old as I am.

No, I haven't posted in a while. And the Blooger world has passed me by. This new technology sometimes baffles me, though I must confess to loving it, too.

Much has happened to me, some of which I may share at some time. The challenging part of being my age is that I've known so many men, and generally, I've learned the types. There are really very few male types. But every now and then one comes along that baffles me, even scares me in his originality. And that is what I've been involved with, until I realized that if I really wanted to live until I was finished living, I really might want to get out of his life. Or get him out of mine. I hope I did it soon enough.

Yes, some people call me a risk taker. I went to a counselor who called me that, and then her conclusion after talking to me for about an hour was that I am an alcoholic. That Twentieth Century; it really was a century of hang-ups. Anything that was done in excess became an illness. One has to understand, though, the anyone who does things in excess is just being human in high gear. And unfortunately, some can't handle it. Indeed, no one can handle it if you push it too high - everyone reaches their limits. A Romanian friend made the comment to me just the other day that we strive to reach our inadequacies. We strive to find our limits. And when we find them, well we try to break through them.

When I was child, oh way too long ago, I was terrifically shy. Everything was a limit for me. You'd think I wouldn't remember that far back, but I do. Because I am still always already that terribly shy fearful child. And whenever I feel myself settling back into my fearful self, I do something else to exceed my limits. The thing is - at 424 years old, well, your outermost limit keeps becoming more extreme and extraordinary.

But I do have my limits.

Like aging children. We are really just aging children. For a period of time, we play the game of society - society is, after all, nothing but a game. The child inside of us learns to play it; some of us learn to play it better than others, because we're a little more keyed in to the folks who are setting the rules. But as we get older, well, the game gets a bit boring. This is why older people become so absolutely childish. They just resort back to their essential selves, the selves they were born with.

Mankind too gets bored with playing the game; this is why we have revolutions. We're due for a big one. Read my blogs about The Grid to see why this is an important topic to me.

Among humans, though, there are some people, who for one reason or another, recognize early on that it's all a game. They decide they will keep their childish selves alive, and take out their social selves whenever they need it. These are some of the most intelligent people around, and the most interesting. But they can also be the most dangerous. Childish impulses can be hurtful, especially when the child was reprimanded with pain. This produces mean abusive adults. You have to watch out for them; they look for people who keep the childish innocence in their eyes, and take the rules of the game very seriously. These are the people who are easily fooled.

I say these things largely because this is what I feel like talking about right now. But also, I look back at my post about Michael Jackson. He was an old soul, too, you know. As a soul, he had become so old that he was just always a child. This can be good and this can be bad. People like this sometimes get confused, and think they can play certain childish games that one really can't play when they've grown out of their childish body.

Yes, that's one of the benefits of just not having died. My body has remained my own; I'm very aware of the stages of its aging. And it is aging, now; it has been, for hundreds of years, aged rather slowly, but it's becoming a little more noticeable these days. In this body, and having never left the earth, I know what I can safely get away with. Michael kept coming back, kept getting new bodies, and he kept forgetting that bodies have this problem with growing up.

I still have so much to share, but I am getting weary. I performed Turandot at the Met tonight, and even though I love singing Turandot, and this bass Ramey is not bad for an old man, well, I am exhausted. But I'll be back, sooner rather than later.