Friday, January 09, 2009

When Things Get Personal

After my annual physical exam I got a call from my doctor telling me that my psa levels are worrisome and I have a vitamin D deficiency, two facts which do not appear to entail one another, but, as far as I can gleam from quickie internet research, dovetail in a not-so-good way.  My next step is to consult an urologist.

I am surprised by two things:  1) how much this frightens me and 2) how little I know what's truly important to me--important enough for me to dedicate what could transpire to be less time to dedicate to it than I thought I had.  The call from my doctor is, then, the proverbial "wake up call."

Let me amend the above statement:  actually, my claim that I am surprised to find that I don't know what's "truly important to me" is not quite accurate.  That is partially a correct thing to say.  But--god damn it to hell--in point of fact a couple of life-long verities refuse to dislodge themselves:  1)  I love writing.  I fucking love it.  I love it more than any woman I've loved.  More than any friend.  And I've never, ever, ever been able to consummate my love (I dabble in the cheap, throw-away prose of this blog the way a man might visit syphilitic Bangkok prostitutes) and 2) something in me stirs unwittingly, painfully, and vividly in wide open spaces, such as in the mountain west and heaving stretches of blue water between the islands of the Bahamian archipelago.  The great epiphanies of my life have happened 'out there,' cross country skiing on a winter's midnight in Vermont, on a lone hiking trip 50 miles from any other known person in Alaska, in a crowded KOA campground north of Santa Barbara, in a blustery cold dawn on Exuma sound, a rope around the tiller as I grabbed a rail with one hand and set a reef line with the other.  One reason that neither of these loves gets my full attention is that they're lonely to pursue.

In my teens and twenties I loved theater, particularly live theater, but movies, too (film being a genre of theater, in my mind.) In live theater, human beings touch one another with a public intimacy I feel nowhere else--not even in synagogue--an intimacy only cheapened by words such as "ritualistic" or "religious," canned comparisons which I resent.  While I was a graduate student in philosophy I held season tickets to The Trinity Repertory Theatre, during the tenure of Adrian Hall, and to The American Repertory Theatre, during it's golden era of the 1980s, when Robert Brustein was its very active Artistic Director.  And all my life, I have ducked into movie houses to let myself be taken up into alternate realities when I came to a crisis or crossroads.  Deaths of loved ones, break-ups with girlfriends, career failures, all send me to the movies.  Now, my love of theater is tempered by the anxiety of ambition, an anxiety out of which I have always been spurred to fit my own passions to the template of others' expectations (the same problem which fucked up my writing life, truth be told.)  So, when I say I'm surprised to find I don't know what is important to me, I am at least partially telling the truth, and I am partially hiding from it.

At this moment, I find the line between courage and cowardice rubbed out.  The call from my doctor forces me to admit that I can't tell if I'm acting out of one or the other, or both, or even neither.  Perhaps I've been marking time.  All the ways in which I've avoided deep concentration, focus, real intellectual and creative challenge, community involvement, and personal commitment could have amounted to, what, a particularly slow form of suicide?  Some people smoke cigarettes.  Some bore themselves to death.

I say that this blog is about "acting on stage and film as well as in life," the operative word being "acting," in all its dictionary meanings.  That means, this blog is often about succeeding or failing to act, as well as in acting.

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