“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways – either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the teachings of Buddha, I have been able to take this second way.” ~ Dalai Lama
“The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly.” ~ Richard Bach
I’ve written more than once recently about how current events are affecting me. I’ve been extremely tired. Some days I feel despair that we’re going to destroy ourselves and the planet. And yet, something in my DNA turns me toward optimism. I believe each of us is part of a huge ultimate plan for a better collective life. None of us can see the big picture but I cling to the hope that we as a species are going to survive and more than that thrive, eventually.
This past semester my acting friend and I mentored an honors student for the honors colloquy. My friend suggested a fantastic historical monologue for her. She planned to give a short presentation about the historical context of the play, and then perform the monologue. As we rehearsed, we all felt like the monologue had so much to say about current events and I think we were all deeply affected by the ideas expressed in it.
The monologue came from the play Antigone by Jean Anouilh, based on the ancient Greek play of the same name by Sophocles. It’s a famous Greek tragedy and in true tragedy, each character’s fate is predetermined before they are even born. There is no escape no matter how hard they try. In most tragedies there is an imbalance in the society and the main character, usually the king, must be brought down. They usually die in their effort to set things right. Needless to say, all versions of Antigone are very heavy plays.
I’m not sure I believe in fate the way the ancient Greeks did. Yet I do believe we choose the outline of the life we are going to live before we are born, which is a kind of fate. There are lines in the monologue that resonate with me because in my mind they support my point of view and yet offer new things to consider. Here’s a section that I continue to think about. “In tragedy, nothing is in doubt and everyone’s destiny is known. … HE WHO KILLS IS AS INNOCENT AS HE WHO GETS KILLED: IT’S ALL A MATTER OF WHAT PART YOU ARE PLAYING. Tragedy is restful; and the reason is that hope, that foul deceitful thing, has no part in it. There isn’t any hope. You’re trapped. … and all you can do is shout. … you can get all those things said that you never thought you’d be able to say – or never even knew you had it in your to say.”
Sometimes I wish I were more blunt and just said what’s actually in my mind. There are things I’d love to say, but I don’t want to create more division than there already is. There is so much imbalance in societies all over the world. I struggle with what part I’m playing in what’s going on. I want to help effect positive change, but I’m often confused. Ultimately, I feel like none of the roles people play are right or wrong, they are all part of the bigger tapestry that humans have been weaving since we were created. Yet, it’s one thing to be looking back at times like these. Living in the chaos is difficult. What I take from the monologue is that we all have opportunities to shout. To say things that we never thought we’d be able to say, or even knew we had it in us to say. I struggle with just blurting out the way I see the world, or to do as I have been doing, quietly suggest new ideas for consideration.
The end of the line I quoted above helps me a bit. “And you don’t say these things for their own sake; you say them because you learn a lot from them.” I believe when I express my true opinion respectfully, others learn something from it. And maybe that’s the thing I love so much about this monologue. If we not only speak our minds, but listen to each other, especially those who don’t agree with us, we have a possibility to learn vital new things that might change the pattern of the tapestry and make it more beautiful.
I don’t agree with Sophocles and Anouilh about hope. To me there is always hope that we can create new more beautiful sections of the tapestry if we’re open to new ideas. There are people I love who do not have the exact same opinions I do about politics, or religion, or even basic things like how to do household chores. I could get angry and demand that they change to come into alignment with me. Or I could remember that everyone is as innocent as I think I am. It feels like time to stop drawing lines in the sand and feeding conflict and divisiveness. I don’t always feel courageous enough to let go of my prejudices and reach out to people who don’t have the same background I do. However, no matter what is going on in my life, I keep coming back to the fact that love and cooperation feels so much better than conflict. I believe it’s collaboration, caring and compassion that will get all of us through all the challenges we face personally and collectively.
Here is an interesting historical note: Anouilh’s play was written during the Nazi occupation of France. At first performances were banned because of its controversial nature. But in 1944 the Nazi’s changed their mind. When it was performed an interesting thing happened, the Nazi’s thought it was a validation of their quest to rule the world. While the French citizens saw a deeper meaning. Neither group knew their ultimate fate, but the play gave the people who saw it hope that maybe the Nazi’s fate was to fail in their quest to rule the world. In the play, Creon, Antigone’s uncle and the new king asserts his power without mercy. He wins his political cause but he loses the moral one. Even though Antigone dies for her convictions, she’s the moral winner. The play was Anouilh’s statement that there is no way for us to know the ultimate fate of humanity, or sometimes even the role we play in each lifetime. All we can do is to live our lives the best we can and occasionally shout against our fate. If we do, we might help ourselves and someone else understand something that was never thought of before, something vital to the big tapestry we’re all creating together.
Thanks for reading my musings. I appreciate your likes and comments. I hope you nurture hope and shout against injustices whenever you feel compelled to do so.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2019
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a little bit like Outlander in that it’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel. Only Jenna’s life is shattered. When she finds old journals, she joins consciousness with her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan, instead of traveling physically. She is able to come back at intervals and apply what she’s learned to her own life situations.
The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.