Musical theatre types exude energy; young, beautiful people (or those who used to be) who sing like angels, though what they sing about often falls somewhat short of angelic. I’m sitting in the Falls Theatre at ACT last night at a showcase for New Musical Theatre songs and shows, waiting, along with Anjie, my daughter Amy and her friend Casey, and one of Daniel’s friends. We’re waiting, of course, for my son to sing, which he did, amazingly, as usual. But he wasn’t my only thought as the evening progressed.
Jennifer Paz, recently seen by Seattle audiences in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, sang a song that somehow caught my attention. “Perfect” is a song about a girl clinging to a relationship, claiming that she can be “perfect” for her man. And there was a beautiful moment, a line delivered well…perfectly. I can’t repeat it verbatim, but the gist of it was the ongoing refrain of humanity: “I don’t want to be alone.”
I can’t say why, but it struck me that this was the crux of the matter. Stuck in a boundary of skin, swimming in a pool defined by the frustratingly finite range of my experience, constantly reaching out to connect, to find that from which I can metabolize life both physically and spiritually. Born into being through no effort of our own, we are impacted profoundly by the ways we are connected to the surrounding souls. We reach out instinctively, children not yet aware of good and evil, not yet cognizant of the difference between loving discipline and selfish striking out. Families’ words and hands dole out lifetimes of solid faith and identity or they shatter psyches and bodies in abuses that can haunt forever. And always, always, alone stalks us.
What will we do to avoid being alone?
Stephen Sondheim says “No One is Alone.” Maybe not, but for so many, it sure doesn’t feel that way. And yes, I know loneliness and being alone are different experiences, and that one can be alone without being lonely, but I’m referring to that state of being that is existentially there, regardless of feeling-state.
Avatar (enjoyed the heck out of it, maybe I’ll blog about it later) posits a planet in which every living thing is connected in the manner of the brain, synapses running between every boundary. And as I think about the world, I tend to see things in just that way. The problem with Avatar is that it subtly asserts that connectivity is virtue, rather than as a conduit for both good and evil. All the evil of Avatar seems to be introduced from the outside, as if the planet itself were sinless. Too bad its not that way on this world.
To connect, to belong, to love and be loved. We are desperate for it. Who has the answer for how its best done? Lots of people have answers. Bookshelves are overflowing with answers. Gurus and shamans and preachers shout and shake and shimmy, hollering profundities that cover the whole planet. Who has it right?
Of course, I think the Christ has it right. But even in following his words, his life, and his death, there’s a pretty wide range of actions and possibilities. A pretty wide range of ways to screw it up as well. And alone lurks, sad puppy, happy to dislodge whatever togetherness you think you might have. More fodder for musical theatre song-writers.
On whose behalf will we push against alone today…