Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

02 February 2011

enter the Age of Comedy

It's time for us to end
The Age of Tragedy;
we've been living in it
far too long.

Now, you wonder,
what on God's earth 
does she mean, but you know
this verbious chick will tell you
that, and more.
Furthermore, perhaps you
(like I) are beginning to wonder 
if I ever laugh.
Those last two entries were
dark, and darker still.

But in fact,
I crack a smile on many occasions, and my laugh
is loud.  I love the rush of fresh air
that comes with laughing,
and the way it loosens my clamped
jaw.  This is why
I write this entry:
~ ~ 

We've been living in the Age
of Tragedy 
for far too long.

Now the word "tragedy" can be defined
in a number of ways; I talk
to my students about this a lot,
and here, as in the classroom,
I define it in its most classical sense,
the way Aristotle did:

Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions.  (Poetics)

as you can see,
tragedy is all about
plot and performance.
Its single, ill-fated action
does unfold in narrative time,
enacted by humans
(Notably, according to Aristotle,
the most suitable tragic heroes are men)
while others witness,
watching one man, one great man
make one great
stupid mistake.

We, the onlookers,
are supposed to benefit from watching
that fatal error.  We're supposed to be purged
of our own sadnesses and nasty desires,
learn a vital lesson,
and get on with living,

Over time, dramatists like Shakespeare
added a second plot,
and even women;
dear Arthur Miller made sure
the Common Man could share
in the carnage, and August
Wilson painted it black.

Tragedy, for thousands of years,
has, ultimately, held the place of choice
in our dramatic fayre.

~ ~ ~ 

Now, I'll take a logical step here
that asks you to apply some of my other ramblings:

Narrative time 
is Real time; 
Narrative time
is All Time.
A distinctive feature of
Narrative time
is that it has a clear
beginning, middle and end
(aka: birth, life, death);
its dominant message
can be summarized
in stories.
Narrative time is the time
we live in.  Lives unfold around
us, patterned by established patterns
we have come to call History.

We live in narrative time.
We --         
----- each of us ---
write our stories with each step
we take, each word we 
utter, each heart we
break.  Of course, when we get
to the end of our stories, and
look back at them,
we just remember
the highest highs and the lowest
lows, editing out the daily trips
to the bathroom.

On some level, we all know
that this is what we are doing
in our lives:
creating our own stories.
This is why we 
go to college, 
get married,
get promoted
have children
get divorced
go on journeys
all of these acts provide chapters
in the narrative of our lives
and lead us to place we think
we'd like to be
in the end,
as we face our end.

Sometimes, we feel the need
to edit our stories, with lies
and omissions,
we convince ourselves that we
are always right,
believing that when we review
it all at the end,
the lies will have the power to erase
our biggest transgressions.

Unfortunately, I tend to think that in the story
we will witness at the end, when
we confront that unflinching mirror
of death, those lies and denials will apear
just as that: 
lies and denials.
(ex: she had an abortion
and told everyone
she lost the child
he cheated on his fathful wife
and when his wife suspected, he convinced her
she had an overactive thyroid
to divert her attention. .  . 
That's how the lies will appear to us.
The mirror that divides
this world from the next
captures each of our actions

Anyway, I can see my own pen meandering.
Back to my point:
we live in narrative time
and each of our lives,
so distinctly framed by
a beginning and an end,
all contain a series of plots.

~ ~ ~ 

Now, a bit over a year ago,
I wrote an entry that referred to the idea
that there are 36 recognized plots
in drama (or so some critics
say), and every play
can be summarized by one
of those plots.

Notably, they're all Tragedies.

In that earlier entry I wondered if the same
could be said of our lives.
At that time my own life
seemed to be catapulting
down a pre-ordained path
that could only end tragically,
and quite frankly, 
I didn't like it.  I felt fated,
and I refused to accept that version
of my own story.
In the time since,
I have reclaimed power over the direction
my feet are tracing, but I'm still 
unsure of the ending.
But aren't we all?
That truly is the part of each
of our stories
we generally have little power over.

Anyway, at that time, I considered how perhaps
our lives follow
pre-ordained, repeated plots,
that traverse this earth in cycles,
unrecognized until the end, when
we come face to face 
with the plot we accepted,
and lived,
in this lifetime.
Thinking we couldn't change it,
we followed the footsteps of those
who came before.

And the dominant genre,
the favored genre 
of the past 2,500 years or so,
has been Tragedy.

Just look at it:
the blood spattered across the lines
our feet have traced, 
collectively and individually.
Even the story of Jesus
is a tragedy : He saves us
in a self-sacrificial gesture; He
provides us all with a text we repeat
a text that documents humanity's greatest sin:
the Sin of Killing Innocence.
A sin we keep committing,
over and over.

Who is the Hero in that?

* * *

Notably, the joy in the story of Jesus
comes from two places:
in the insistence of the primacy of Love
in an act that, in other circumstances
would be called "magic."
He rose from the dead:
And, arguably,

 ( utexas )

 Now, quite frankly,
one is more likely
to encounter
restoration of order
and a celebration of Love
in a Comedy.

Aristotle, by the way,
appeared to disapprove
of Comedy.  
This is what he had to say about it:

Comedy is, as we have said, an imitation of characters of a lower type- not, however, in the full sense of the word bad, the ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly. It consists in some defect or ugliness which is not painful or destructive. To take an obvious example, the comic mask is ugly and distorted, but does not imply pain. 

Aristotle did grant women a place 
in Comedy.

~ ~ ~ ~

Now the thesis of this rambling blog entry is 
that we should have done with 
The Age of Tragedy
and commence
with Comedy
(or at least the Tragic-Comic,
which acknowledges that life has elements
of both.)

I propose (as I have said) that each 
of our lives follows a path,
a path we choose;
our feet are our pens,
their markings, ink, indelibly
etched across the pages of earthly time.

Unfortunately, I propose,
collectively humanity keeps following in the previous
generations' paths, wearing them deep into the brow
of human memory,
so deep we seem to have 
no other option.

Those paths are painfully tragic,
and sad, full of mistakes that we could not accept,
as we are
as blind as Oedipus before his 

It's time,
I think, to have done
with the Tragic Plots that History
continually replays; 
we've become too obsessed with gore,
titilated by catharsis so much so
that we've lost sight
of the lessons we are supposed to be learning,
all because we,
the potential heroes, 
keep lying, from age to age, refusing
to accept responsibility for the sins
we've committed.

The lesson I've learned in my multiple lives
that you cannot hide from yourself.
Ultimately, when the crowd is gone,
when you face your own silence,
the truths are always there.

The only way out of the lies that cloak our vision
is to tell our own truths,
first to ourselves,
and then to those we've deceived,
always remembering
that only (s)he without sin
can cast 
the first stone.

So let's imagine the majority of humanity
decided to do this.
The only humans who should qualify as judges
in this collective, individual confessional
will be
children, with the average age 
of three.
If they heard all these stories
of our indiscretions
they would laugh at the foolishness
of humanity before them,
they would cry a little too,
but finally,
thank us for finally telling them
the truth,

and they'll still love us,
because we taught them well.

Jesus will come again
at the very instant 
the Age of Comedy dawns,
at the crack of the collective human laugh
at our own foibles
and clumsiness,
at the bursting of
collective love
that refuses to lie
ever again.

Jesus will be there,
covering the earth like a blanket,
his smile glimmering in the stories
that we've each told, 
and in our final realization that WE 
have the power to end the Tragedy
as Comedy.


Billy Joe said...

Thank you, Elina, this is an ingenious take on life, full of hard-won truths I suspect. Enjoyed, I'll be back.


Makropoulos said...

Thank you, Billy. It's very nice to meet you.

Billy Joe said...


I've recommended your blog to a blogging friend. She's a better poet than me and has two cats, Elmo and Bob.
She posts pictures of them often. Lately, she hasn't been writing poetry on her blog as much. She is a very good poet. Anyway, here is her blog, check it out, say hello:


Makropoulos said...

Thanks! I'll check it out!