japonisme: play as haiku

20 May 2008

play as haiku

liza's wonderful post about jello inspired my thinking, once again, about how artists, in the early part of the 20th century, brought illumination to the mundane -- the blurring of the line between fine and commercial art, as we have seen before as influenced by the japanese.

somehow i suddenly thought of the end of a play by thornton wilder:

From Our Town: Emily, a young mother who has died, has come back to earth for one day to spend time with her friends and family, who don't know she's there.

Emily: I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back -- up the hill -- to my grave. But first, wait! One more look. Good-by; good-by, world; good-by, Grovers Corners. . . Mama and papa.

Good-by to clocks ticking. . . and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths. . . and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you. (She looks toward the stage manager and asks abruptly through her tears) Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? -- every, every minute?

Stage Manager: No. (Pause) The saints and poets, maybe -- they do some.

Emily: I'm ready to go back.

it suddenly occurred to me that this was about consciousness, living in the moment -- in short, the teachings of buddhism.

"Opening in the first years of a new century, Our Town still speaks to us about the beauty and transience of life," says one critic. hmmm -- isn't that the essence of buddhist thought? the description of a haiku?

"Thornton Wilder, in his play, The Skin of Our Teeth, written in 1942, had one of his characters say this: 'My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it's on your plate -- that's my philosophy.'" and thich nhat hanh says, "Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment. Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing both inside and around you." he might as well just have come out and said ice cream.

wilder spent much of his childhood in china, and felt that japanese drama was a strong influence on his own, both in thought and in the minimalism of staging. he, along with the new poster artists, did one thing clearly: ennoble the everyday.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Blogger Liza Cowan said...

Thanks for the link.

Yeah, Ice Cream is ever so much more understandable (and yummy) than the vague allusion to "refreshing and healing"

21 May, 2008 13:40  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

A great play, "Our Town." During final rehearsals they suddenly realized they needed some additional lines to explain how George and Emily got together. So Thorton Wilder sat down in a back row of the theater and wrote that wonderful scene where they reveal their feelings for each other:

Listen, Emily, I’m going to tell you why I’m not going to Agriculture School. I think that once you’ve found a person that you’re very fond of…I mean a person who’s fond of you, too, and likes you enough to be interested in your character… Well, I think that’s just as important as college is, and even more so. That’s what I think.

I think it’s awfully important, too. (Pause.)


Y-yes, George.

Emily, if I do improve and make a big change…would you be…I mean: could you be…

I…I am now; I always have been.

So I guess this is an important talk we’ve been having—


22 May, 2008 12:05  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

lovely, david. thank you.

and liza--yeah--like they tell you about writing: somehow the specific implies universal more than the vague and general.

22 May, 2008 13:30  

Post a Comment

hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

<< Home

newer posts older posts