I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
November 21, 2013 - 11:42 a.m.
This is going to be difficult to write. My psyche was broken into little pieces last night all doing different things. I'm still not in good shape.
I left off writing yesterday to make a phone call. That's where I hate not having an office. I hate having a private conversation in the department office in front of everyone. I have had people say things other times As I was feeling particularly vulnerable I asked the admin if there was someplace I could have some privacy. He let me use another prof's office. It was empty when I went in but of course the person I called had to call back and he did just as the prof walked in. but he didn't stay long and I got to have a private conversation. I needed that. The last one on one conversation I had with someone was Thursday. That's my social life, lots of surface but not much depth.
But that's just backstory. When I was a young boy in Gimmelshtump, wait, that's somebody else's backstory.. Let me try again. You are not going to hear about being a lawn gnome, sorry.
Once again I was given tickets to the opera. For someone that can't afford to go to the opera I go to the opera quite a bit. There are times when fortune shines on me. My social life might be shallow but my friends are great. On Monday my friend told me that I might be able to go to the opera on Wednesday,. That was great. But it wasn't till Tuesday that I found out that I had two tickets! So now I had to find someone to go with me. It's the opera and opera is not for everyone. It's short notice. And right now there's only one friend that I regularly make plans with and was pretty sure she couldn't make it. So that meant asking people that I'm not used to asking. That's always one of my issues, I looked at it as an opportunity. By total chance I saw the first person I thought of asking in person after I had already messaged her but she hasn't seen the message yet. She couldn't go. It was now Tuesday night and I had to scramble to find someone for Wednesday night. I asked about a dozen people with no luck.
Now I do things by myself all the time. I go out most nights and as I said there's only one person nowadays I'm making plans with so most nights I go out alone even if I meet people I know where I'm going. So that's not the issue. But this not being able to find people do go with me when something drops in my lap is a frequently repeated thing and it builds on itself. There's an element of failure attached to it. Not that it ever stops me from going out and enjoying myself.
I went up to the Met early to pick up my ticket and looked for someone to give the extra too. I wanted someone I'd enjoy sitting with. This very sour looking guy saw I had a ticket and came up to me. I did not want to sit with him and was relieved when he wouldn't take the ticket, even though it was free, because it was side orchestra. No it wasn't the best seat in the house, only one of the best seats. They were great seats. I was right to not want and sit with him.
Then this octogenarian came up to me. I wasn't thrilled about the idea of sitting with him but I wasn't going to lie and say I didn't have a ticket and I gave it to him. He was thrilled to get a free ticket. He loves the opera, oh I never told you what it is. That's because it means looking it up. It's a German title I have trouble with one word. It's Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without a Shadow. The word I can never remember is "ohne" it must mean without. It's' by Richard Strauss. I always associated him strongly with Wagner, but apparently he associated himself with Mozart. He was wrong. way too much bombast for Mozart. This is the guy that wrong Also Spracht Zarathusta, the opening theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. He is Wagnerian.
The gentleman I gave the ticket to was old and German so I joked to a friend in a Facebook Message, "Probably a war criminal in hiding that misses Hitler's favorite composer." Doing the math I realize he was too young for that. If he were 20 in 1945 when the war ended he'd be 88 now, So maybe he could just squeak by if he was a spry 88.
Was that offensive? Not that I'm taking it back. I think it's funny, echoes of The Producers,
Once I had the ticket taken care of the next stop was dinner. But then I saw I had a text on my phone. It was from one of the people I asked to go with me. Did she change her mind? I would have died. But no, After telling me she couldn't go and how disappointed she was she realized that she didn't know who it was that sent her the text. So she asked. I told her I was crushed I wasn't on speed dial. I hate when people text me and don't identify themselves then I do it myself. Two people I texted didn't know. Android phones link to your gmail and facebook accounts so it is very easy to have everyone you know on them and I became good about identifying anyone I ever talked to or texted with. But I know others don't. I have to remember when texting people I don't talk or text with often, to identify myself. This is new etiquette and not drilled into us as kids. That makes it harder to learn.
OK I have written over a thousand words and haven't even gotten to the opera house yet. Brevity is the soul of wit. Clearly my wit is soulless.
OK, I will rush though dinner and just say that breaded fried chicken is NOT buffalo chicken and the restaurant I ate at should be sued for false advertisement,. If I wasn't rushed I'd have called Paul who would beat them up.
I got to the Met and found my seat though it was a struggle to reach it. I arrived on time but close to curtain and the row was filled and I was in the middle. Not one person in the row stood up to make it easier for me to get in. In fact they didn't move at all. I have never had that happen before. I said excuse me and got no response. They were probably other German war criminals who knew I was Jewish.
This was pretty much the worse circumstances for me to enjoy myself. I was going through not so much anxiety as existential angst. They are related, I'm pretty sure that I have one mental defect not two that feel similar. It's that same sense of losing control of one's thoughts and emotions. So imagine feeling like that and seeing an opera filled with dense teutonic metaphysics. That does not sound promising, but it was.
The opera is a fantasy built in its own mythology with multiple planes of existence. I'm not going to try and attempt to explain the plot. You find a synopsis and read it. I've seen two weird operas in a row, The Nose and Die Frie ohre Schatten. What matters in my story is that it's a tale of tortured souls and that's how I was feeling. Through three acts I felt the oppression the emperor, empress, Barak, and his wife felt. Barak is the only one that even has a name. Nothing breaks up the tone. There is no comic relief. The music is beautiful and lyrical but filled with the sadness of Middle Earth. There is a villain, the nurse, but for the most part the pain comes from within themselves or from the nature of the universe. But then comes the glorious ending and all is made right and as the quartet find happiness my angst drained away. Nothing had changed for me. Everything I was worried about is still there but it isn't crushing me. I know it's temporary but so is the angst. All we can ever do is move the dial a bit. This was art doing it's magic and I'll always appreciate that. And I appreciate the wonderful person that gave me the tickets.
So now opera is like so many other things. I am more of an aficionado that 95% of the population but I know that I know nothing compared to the real thing. But it isn't a competition. I go to the opera because it gives me pleasure. It also gives me more incentive to get new glasses. I need to see what's on stage better.
After the show I rushed home. It's a bombastic German opera. The run time is four hours. Then I had to walk down to Columbus Circle and take two trains home. It was late when I got back. So much for getting to bed early.
So now opera is like so many other things. I am more of an aficionado that 95% of the population but I know that I know nothing compared to the real thing.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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