Tuesday, December 11, 2012

the only atheist in Texas sees God

"One of the few atheists who lives in Texas" sees God in OK Go's song "Skyscrapers."  Somehow I'm not surprised.

But from Chicago, this is "the song I'd feel like singing if I ever decided leaving Chicago was a good idea.  And that doesn't surprise me either.

What does any song mean?  God?  Chicago?  Sleeping around?  Depression?  Big city dreams? Suicide?  "Love, life, and just trying to get by"? The bright meniscus of the song gives back whatever scene crowds up to the edge of its pool.  

"That's just my thought's" what?  My thought's reflection?  My thought's trace?  My thought's shadow?  My thought's though, indeed.  The act of interpretation still slips over the surface.  Even as it tries to plunge down into the muck beneath. Replacements and parenthetical insertions are already skating over the water's skin.

All that crystal clearness promises is a bright and backward reflection.

Any mirror is an interpretation.
Any interpretation is a translation.
Any translation is an unmaking and remaking into foreign terms, a picture in a frame, a choice among possible shades of meaning.

Of course, some translations are better than others, if by better we mean hewing closer to the goals of the original. If we can know what those originals were. Some other interpretations are better if by better we mean more interesting. If by better we mean more useful.  If we mean more beautiful.  If we mean, whatever it is we think, we hope we mean.

These are all different betters, though, which will not necessarily coincide.  To interpret is to leave some small and unimportant parts out.  If we are sure what is unimportant.  But to understand all is to forgive all.  But we can never hope to understand everything, or even anything completely.


I'm not sure there can be a human solution to these two opposite equations.  Is it the act of forgiveness to leave out and to forget?  Is it the act of forgiveness to remember and to bring back into the dance all the colors and footwork that went before?

Take these two different "quotations" of the song/dance "Skyscrapers" below.  Which one is better?  Which one is more true?

I'd say the second, in a heartbeat.

Rather than a hodgepodge like the first, the second exhibits some sense of the original's grace and balance and symmetry, shows the direction of the dance, preserves the progression from red to violet, the order of the rainbow (which is not a bad translation of please forgive me), the order of visible light (which is not a bad way to say I was blind).

But neither snippet is the song:   


Each quotation-strip leaves out the tenderness of the beginning in black and the finality of the final step off the edge of the screen in eternal white as well as a whole week's worth of gestures and costume changes.  Each stripped-down summation leaves out the movements I love best: the dip in aquamarine, the at-arms-length eye-locking Ferris Wheel, the arm flung out with joy in summer's greens and blues, the drawn-out around-the-clock spin.  The shared glance of mutual satisfaction in sunny yellow, the flutter of a skirt, the steady forward stance.  Neither maps the backtracking of the dance's movements, a backtracking that plays out within the dance as utterly necessary to the forward motion.  Neither quote will ever be the dance.

And sadder still, even with the full dance playing before your eyes, no one can ever really see what I see when I see this dance. No one ever can.  Says Harriet Lerner in her Dance of Anger :
In a sudden and unexpected fury, [the bus driver] launched into a vitriolic attack that turned heads throughout the crowded bus.  The three of us stood in stunned silence. 
Later, over coffee, we shared our personal reactions to this incident.  Celia felt mildly depressed.  She was reminded of her abusive ex-husband and this particular week was the anniversary of their divorce.  Janet reacted with anger, which seemed to dissipate as she drummed up clever retorts to the driver's outburst and hilarious revenge fantasies.  My own reaction was nostalgia.  I had been feeling homesick for New York and almost welcomed the contrast to the midwestern politeness to which I had become accustomed.
Not even I will see this dance as I saw it now seeing it again. 

So how can I ever hope to understand enough to forgive?  How can I remember clearly enough to finally forget?

What am I hoping to accomplish with these approximations which are the closest I can ever come?  Will I ever see anything but my own reflection?  Or is that reflection, bright but backward, and peculiarly my own, the very thing I've come here this month to see?


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