the responsibility of falling in love

There comes a point when you stop doing the conversions.  You simply realize that no matter what you are buying, it is more expensive in London.  Don't think about USD.

Covent Garden at night.  I've just come from the National Theatre's production of King Lear with the legendary Simon Russell Beale in the title role.  This production was the impetus for my visit.  When I read that it was to happen, I decided that if I could get a ticket (as NT shows famously sell out in minutes once they become available), then I would come to London to see it.  And I did (at 2:30 in the morning in Chicago), so I am here.

King Lear is one of the plays that almost everyone has very particular feelings about, but I went in with a clean slate.  Beale's is the first Lear I've ever seen.  And quite fortuitously indeed, he was slated to stay on for one hour after the show and have an onstage conversation with Mark Leipacher about the role.

I read similar reviews and interviews before arriving in London, and this Telegraph piece stayed with me.  Beale says, "You’re responsible for telling a story. It’s a bit like being a monk, praying for the world – sometimes you get into a state where you’re thinking that what I’m doing is valuable even if nobody else sees it. Which is, of course, bollocks."

It's something I consider often, the supposed responsibility of artists to share their work.  Those who subscribe to the ideas of "talent" and "gifted-ness" would say that this responsibility is bestowed by gods or muses upon the precious few recipients of artistry.  But many of us who slog through the thousands of hours of honing our skills (whether they are hours of movement, speech training, text editing, or any number of creative afflictions/joys) feel somewhat dismissed by this passive view.  Who gave us talent: deities, or the parents who funded years of creative instruction?  Who, having the final word, puts in the work?

Ability is not given, and if we must create in ourselves the talent, then we also create that responsibility to maintain and display it.  Some of us feel it early on and just never shake it off.  It's rather like falling in love.  Once the thing comes into your life, you can't get rid of it.  It consumes your every thought, all your spare moments.  Returning after an absence is like being reintroduced to your own self.

So it's not talents that choose us, and we don't choose them either.  We simply fall in love with something and accept the responsibility therewith.  Therefore I must believe that any person who does not create has not yet fallen in love with creation; and perhaps never will, unless that person is willing to be moved by things, just as we are moved by people, in unexpected ways.

The way Simon Russell Beale spoke of Lear tonight was, for me, more enlightening than anything that happened in the production.  The show was moving, yes, but I fell for Shakespeare long ago.  Beale's voice, his tender gestures, when describing these tragic humans: it was like a eulogy for a beloved friend.  No wonder he wants to share this man with an audience.

We don't choose the expressions that move us.  There is no decision when we are young that we will love painting and nothing else.  Our lives can be derailed by beauty, and the challenge set forth to us by mere existence is to allow ourselves to be derailed.  To admit that we are vulnerable -- and gladly so -- to the creations of other humans.

We don't like to admit that there is power greater than our reasoning wills.  But it is not the power of gods and monsters: it is the emotion within us.  It is why we cry with Lear, the tyrant, upon the death of his daughter.  Why we care for damnable Goneril after her father berates her.  It doesn't make sense, but we fall in love.

-- R