Friday, January 18, 2008

My Magnum Opus

I was talking to my friend Alison about the Woody Allen film CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS yesterday– one of my favorite films. In particular we talked about the final image of the recently blinded rabbi, played by Sam Waterston dancing with his daughter at her wedding. The essence of bittersweet – the overarching pain that he can’t behold her in her wedding dress - the delight to be there with her for this important moment - our sense as audience members that life isn’t fair – the good are punished and the wicked lead the life of Reilly. And yet. And yet. There is dancing and life goes on.

Later in the evening I received an email attachment from a friend who has been sending me Ray Charles tunes. I call them my “Ray of the Day” and they are indeed a ray of light. They all tell a different story and seem to fit the mood I’m in when I get them.

Alison and I talked about how artists give us these moments – the rabbi at the wedding, Ray Charles singing Blues in the Night at an impossibly slow tempo, the lines of some of the poems I’ve quoted on this blog – and for a brief moment those works of art lasso that vast, unknowable grief and joy that is life and pull it into this one crystalline moment. We watch a film and we weep, we listen to a beautiful violin piece and the hairs on our arm stand on end, we feast on a writer’s words and in doing so that vastness of this world, this life – as well as it’s insignificance and brevity is right there if just for a moment.

A new friend told me that he never really understood the concept of “bittersweet” until my concert and it made me think. I had hoped someday to make the kind of art that could reveal something so painful and beautiful at the same time that the audience and I could share a knowing, that crystalline moment. Now I feel like I’m living inside one of those moments and how I choose to accept this bittersweet truth will be my art.

1 comment:

Alison said...

I love spending time with you, Carla, and the way our talks range from art to life to spirit...

"Bittersweet" would be a great name for an album.

It's funny, as a non-parent who wishes she had kids, I saw that scene with the blind Sam Waterston differently. I always felt that he got the prize, because he had his beautiful daughter (even if he couldn't see her in her wedding dress,) he had the love of his family because he was such a good man.

Whereas the other guy, the one who got away with the perfect crime, got an empty hollow life, even though he escaped outward punishment--I thought his punishment was that he had to be him, whereas the rabbi's reward was that he got to be himself.

My good friend Lynnell always said "We are punished for our sins by our sins," meaning, we have to live with ourselves, and I think the converse is also true: we are rewarded for our good deeds by our good deeds, meaning they are what mske our lives worth living...

Which is why I think your life is so rich and beautiful, even amidst the awfulness of the diagnosis.