Saturday night while absorbing the disturbing news pouring out of Arizona I reached my own breaking point. Having personally tolerated the media vitriol for much too long, Jared Loughner’s action only confirmed my fears that enough “Fox Newspeak” would cause damage in the world. So I did something I try not to do; I picked up my mobile devise and opened up Twitter to post an angry entry. It was a simple statement;
“#giffords and all the collateral damage is tragic & I blame #palin.”
I put my phone down and got ready for bed. By the time I crawled under the blankets I saw my phone blinking. It’s hard to resist that little light tempting you with every passing wink so I took one last look and found a note waiting for me on Twitter.
It read; “and if anything happens to Palin, I’ll hold you responsible, hypocrite”
I could feel the ire rise in my gut as I re-read the message. The hair on the back of my neck pricked with indignation and my comportment became that of a cat ready for fight. I felt under attack just as assuredly as if this guy were physically coming at me with a 2×4.
I am a nice person and I try to stick to relatively benign posts because I really don’t like stirring the pot that much but hypocrite?! Was I being hypocritical? No, I don’t think I was–based upon my understanding of the definition of a hypocrite*. But I had to ask, after berating myself for posting under the influence of rage, was I in the wrong somehow? I decided to sleep on it rather than fire back an off-the-cuff reply. Needless to say I did not sleep well that night. Visions of Twitter feeds slipped in and out of my awareness. Vague feelings of aggression and fear tugged at my temples. Witty come-backs and impassioned diatribes filled my mind as I composed the perfect Tweet to this twit from Texas.
Morning came and in my hazy grogginess with phone in one hand and coffee in another I swyped my reply.
“the day I run national ads citing violence on specific people u may call me hypocrite. Ms. P must account for her words & deeds.” And I went on with my day. I found myself checking Twitter more than ever before in my life. There was something thrilling and maddening about this cross-country argument before an audience of anonymous millions.
The day passed and as the sun set his reply came screaming out of the ether into the devise I was holding in my hand; “actually, twitter is international. Your insipid comments know no borders. And you are asking for violence against Palin.” Several things happened for me in that moment. First off, I got pissed. But the longer I studied his message and gazed at his profile picture taken while he was driving his car the more it dawned on me that here was a human being. He was obviously passionate about his beliefs and maybe he had just about enough of this nonsense too. Compassion welled up within me. He didn’t like my post, I reasoned, it was perceived as a threat to his beloved former Governor of Alaska. Maybe all he wants to do is protect her. I tried to understand how “blame Palin” had become translated by this guy into “violence against Palin”
I don’t want anyone to get violent on anyone. I never called for that! And the moment of clarity rang ever deeper: this man is not responding to me. He’s responding to ‘the other’ that I represent for him. The ‘other’ that he learned to mistrust and fear and hate. Truth be told I was relating to him in the same light.
My urge to counter attack lessened. “i never said that, you did” my tweet began. “but u r right, I was reactionary & should know better than to post a Tweet when upset. Peace”
End of conversation, for him at least. To date, I’ve never heard back from him which actually makes me sad. The following day I sent him a message:
“so let’s open up a new dialogue. What is your take on the attack on Rep. Giffords? What do we learn from this?”
Then 8 hours later:
“I’m honestly looking for common ground. I want to hear ur thoughts about our current situation. Repairing the world starts here”
And the next morning:
“sad that you seem to only want to insult & not engage in genuine dialogue. I tried.”
Don’t ask me to explain why I still carry this guy around with me but I do: a young Republican, active in his Texas community, probably religious. I wonder what he’s like when he’s not warding off evil liberals like me. I wonder if we’d enjoy each others company if we met and agreed to talk about anything but politics. I wonder what he reads at night. I wonder if we really could just get along.
*hypocrite-adj: 1- a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion. 2- a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.
Cited from Websters Dictionary.com
Light upon my wall in the still afternoon of a typical day at work. From beyond my window I am aware of the bustling city, product driven industry grinding out its merchandise to spirit hungry tourists yet I, risen above all that, sit in solitude. My only visitor is the sunlight bouncing off my wall warming my back and reminding me just how small I really am.
Just as my mother inculcated in me a love of literary fantasy so have my husband and I ignited an intellectual spark in the soul of our teenage son, Max. Mythological beasts, rings of power and tales of brave journeymen have rung in his ears since he was small. In fact I read The Hobbit to him just as my mom did for me (without the fireplace, I might add) and from the very book in which Mother’s fingers lingered on the corner of every page as she cradled the spine in the palm of her left hand.
My eldest son came of age in the era of Harry Potter, basking in the warm glow of anticipation with each subsequent publication of JK Rowling’s definitive works. And then, of course, it was Peter Jackson’s directors cut of the Lord of the Rings trilogy that sealed the deal for Max. I watch, now, as a complex, fascinating and self-assured young man steps out the door to take himself to places where I once was mandated to shepherd him. Our roles are changing and to my surprise his wisdom often overrules my own.
Such was the case when I shared over dinner about my new interest with opera and Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle. Max took to it immediately. His trip to Germany with my mother, the summer before, assured his interest in the language and the fact that JRR Tolkien drew inspiration from Wagner’s epic only sweetened the deal. After we cleaned up from our home-cooked family meal we were on the computer pulling up suggestions for the authoritative recording of Das Rheingold, first of the four operas.
There were too many recommendations to pick from so my husband jokingly suggested we look up the recording that Francis Ford Coppola used in Apocalypse Now. “If it was good enough for Coppola it has be good enough for you guys.” Then he took a beat; “Of course, it may also be the cheapest version he could find so who knows if it really is any good or not.” My husband sure knows how to put things into perspective. So we found the Wiener Philharmoniker
(remember now, Germans pronounce their W’s like our V’s so it should sound like Vee-eh-ner. Ok, stop sniggering…if you can’t control yourself then just call it The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Oy!)
So we downloaded Das Rheingold onto iTunes and suddenly I am walking around listening to opera on my iPod.
Whoa! Stop the press!
(I wish there was a social media equivalent for this power statement. “Delete this entry!” simply does not have the gravitas I’m going for here.)
What the hell is going on?! (cue Talking Heads if you are interested in listening to the sound track in my head as I write.) I am forty-six years old. I’ve been married for nearly twenty years. There are teenagers and tweeners in my home AND I’M WALKING AROUND LISTENING TO HARD CORE OPERA!
You may ask yourself, how do I work this?
You may ask yourself, where is that large automobile?
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife
Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again, after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground
same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it…
One could call this a mid-life crisis. I amused and horrified myself each time I plugged in and allowed the sound of warbling operatic singers to wash over my once rebellious and opinionated ears. I joked about myself to my son and tried to make light of the veneer of shame I felt at the desire to buy tickets to the opera. I shook my head in disbelief that I had come to this point in my life and wondered aloud if it was all worth it.
Max stopped and looked me in the eye. “This is an adventure. You are discovering something new, something you didn’t know before. Stop worrying so much and have fun with it.” All pretense of being a wise and omnipotent parent ceased and I stood before a person whom I love and respect. “Ok, you’re right. Thank you.”
The morass that had been swirling about me for weeks calmed. I looked in the mirror later that night and saw a middle aged woman looking back at me. I smiled and saw her smile. I laughed and heard her laugh. Then a sigh of relief rose up deep within and I took a profoundly satisfying breath of air.
It was kind of thrilling to like opera.
 Another factor leading to Max’s immediate interest in the opera was that he had been treated to a back stage tour of the Met with his high school film & media class earlier that year. It was a real eye opener for him seeing the massive sets, the cavernous stage and the high tech HD broadcast set up. The sheer magnitude and opulence of the place blew his mind.
 It is important to note that the widely known and clichéd “Ride of the Valkure” which Coppola used in Apocalypse Now is from the second opera Die Walkure. Wiener Philharmoniker recorded Das Rheingold as well.
I know myself pretty damn well and I often start things out on a strong wave of clear headedness. That clarity soon gets clouded and Doubt moves in. Shortly after that Second-Guessing takes the spare room to the right and brings Insecurity with him. Let me tell you – it gets pretty freakin’ crowded in my tiny little head. So to circumvent any sub-leasing of my brilliant mind I have formed a co-op board, of sorts, whose job is to make sure no “undesirables” try to take over the establishment. I think I’ll call them the Blog Board.
The Board has created an outline of proposed blog entries to keep me on track and productive during the transition from summer into fall. In the event Doubt comes knocking – which invariably she will – I’ll just tell her to click over to my blog and start reading. Clarity will win out.
* The Next Great Mountain for my Mind to Climb (already posted)
Introduction to my new obsession with a tiny bit of back story
– I Am Not Alone
How my teenaged son grounded me. It’s not what you think.
– The Great Acquisition
Securing Met opera tickets to Das Rheingold & Die Walkure
– Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Tickets in hand, iPod loaded with hard-core opera music, now begins my journey on a long, steep learning curve
– How can a Jew Like Listening to Wagner?
In pursuit of debunking the myths about the man and an argument for embracing the message Wagner is giving us.
– Leitmotifs – What the Heck is a Leitmotif?!
A novice boldly ventures into the deep waters of Wagnerian theory and risks her intellectual life to swim among the academic sharks of antiquity -or- a greenhorn walks into a Wagnerian bar and orders a leitmotif to go…
– Das Rheingold
My stab at a modern day interpretation of the first opera in The Ring Cycle (DR-TRC)
So I was bored, really no other reason to give to it. Work was slow – August you know – and the office was quiet. Rather than share my mid-day meal with a hundred tourists down in the plaza I found a vacant office, prepared my food and plugged into my iPod. Radio Lab was to be my lunch buddy for the day so I randomly pulled up an old podcast and began to listen to “The Ring and I.” That is when it happened. Over the course of one hour all my doubts and resistance dropped away and I gave myself over, at long last in my short life, to the sway of Richard Wagner’s epic tale known as The Ring Cycle. (Pardon me while I swoon.)
A bit of back story
I have long been a JRR Tolkien fan and read and re-read my own hard-cover editions of The Lord of the Rings decades before Peter Jackson’s most honorable film adaptations first lit up the screen. Some of my earliest child hood memories are of my mother sitting by the fireplace reading The Hobbit to my sisters and me. In grade school I spent hours lying on the floor pouring over a huge colorful book depicting fantastical images of Greek & Norse gods and goddesses.
So somehow I always knew that Wagner’s iconic opera had strong influence on Tolkien & that other guy who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia *. (Sorry, I have no right to slight a literary legend I just can’t recall his name as I sit here working a web log entry. – sigh – oh the evils of modernity and it’s impatient slave driver, the Internet. Must I Google this now to satisfy the need to know whilst I loose my train of thought?!) Opera, however, was totally not my thing and no Wagnerian scholar was going to spill light on my jacket of youthful rebellion so I ditched and dodged my way past Der Ring Des Nibelungen as I simultaneously dove deep into Middle Earth and the burden of Frodo Baggins. As maturity grew and my rebellious streak softened into a quirky sensibility I had a burgeoning awareness of this “other” Ring encroaching upon my literary fantasy world.
Innocently I walked through the doors to the Ring Cycle and I embraced it with abandon. I fell in love and experienced all the giddiness and sense of wonder that comes from discovering a new and mysterious opportunity to stretch my mind despite knowing very little about my suitor. After my mid-day journey with Jad Abumrad and his pod cast I went back to my desk and began a fierce search for anything and everything Wagnerian that involved a ring. Remember I said it was August and things were slow that week. To my great surprise I found out that the Metropolitan Opera was on the verge of mounting a new Ring cycle and that tickets were soon to go on sale. Was it fate? Was it coincidence? Was it a great convergence of time, space and understanding? Who cares? All I knew was that my head was filled with a kind of sweet obsession, a gnawing desire, an impatient resolve that I had just come face to face with the next great mountain for me and my mind to climb. I fell under Wagner’s spell and now the world simply does not look the same to me.
I have a new obsession – Opera! Ha. go figure. Wagnerian opera to be specific. If I have to start somewhere I may as well as go for the hard core stuff. So for the next 8 months and probably into the next year and a half this web log is going to relay my journey into the four operas of Wagner’s epic story known as The Ring Cycle. Straighten your girdle and get out your binoculars cause we’re going to the opera ladies and gentlemen.