Enough for now on the power of the proximate and the present’s power to push us around. (My computer wants to change “present’s power to push you around” to “president’s power to push you around”, but that is not what I am writing about.) Let us go back to how distance of time or space can make things less impressive. I think we all know about the dulling effect of time and distance. Shylock said, when he found out his very own daughter had robbed him and eloped with a Christian: “The curse never fell upon our nation till now; I never felt it till now.” It had hit close to home before. Now it hit home.
“I am bid forth to supper, Jessica: There are my keys.”
(Shylock and Jessica by Maurice Gottlieb, 1876)
But here I am using a fictional character from renaissance Italy.
Does it sometimes seem like all the classical heroes dwell statue-like in some mysterious shadowy hall (kind of like the mason one in St. Helens but older and shadow-ier); as if, for example, the “great” lovers Pyramus and Thisbe, by being the metaphors for a thousand poems, the inspiration for a thousand productions of Romeo & Juliet, an image for a thousand minds and subject of so many paintings, have become weighted down into slow moving epic marble statues, that all their actions are firmly fated – that their story could not have gone any other way?
All this may dull our feeling of it, but surely we catch a glimpse of their realness. Their fluttery hearts in bodies made of the same people-dough we are fashioned from. They sweat. They act quickly, passionately, irrationally. They act on the spur of the moment. They are “dumb teenagers” in love – Just like the ones at St. Helens High School, except a little livelier and deadlier in their actions. Some might prefer to think of the ancients as statues, so as not have to feel their words and their woes with such intensity.
(Face of Laocoön. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
But I move too quickly. One thing I love is the modern way of writing. Cutting and pasting, saving and backspacing. Easy revising is a dream. However, my modern word processor has put a little red line under the word dough. I spelled it right, but I don’t think it likes the word “dough” following the word “people”. I’ll explain: I remember when I was a kid feeling my mom’s arms with my fingers and telling her: “You know what people are made of mom? People-dough!”
Happy now, word processor?
To sum up: I have seen Achilles’ epic rage in modern coworkers of mine and in fellow community theatre people in St. Helens. (“I don’t talk to him,” said my favorite costume lady about the best lighting designer. Achilles was made of the same people-dough as us.)
When the paper mill closed down in St. Helens a lot of the theatre/artsy people I was spending time with seemed to think the town’s hope for the future was more art and music and chocolate shops. But where will the hard wealth come from to buy these things? Portland?
(Paper Mill in St. Helens. Photo Credit Pamplin Media Group)
St. Helens is not a very touristy place. Aside from eavesdropping in Muchas Gracias 24-hour Mexican Restaurant, where St. Helen’s High Schoolers go to have serious discussions – about why they cannot be best friends anymore, and stuff like that, looking at the buildings and looking at the river is the funnest thing there I can think of. I mostly go as a dental tourist these days. Our dentists in St. Helens are a man and wife team. The first time I got my chipped tooth filled in, the wife did it; when that filling broke, the husband worked on it. After he had worked awhile he asked me how it felt. “Tell the truth,” he said. I felt my tooth with my tongue. The real part on the back felt smoother than the fake filling part on the front.
“It….feels fine,” I said.
“You hesitated,” he said.
“This dentist is no fool,” I thought. “He probably hears lies all day long.”
I explained about the rough and the smooth. He worked awhile longer.
When it was done it looked even better than the first filling. White and smooth.