I promise the list of “things I did today in NYC” will become much more interesting now that we’ve gotten all the housekeeping stuff out of the way. But the last two days have been relatively innocuous. Yesterday, I went to the gym and ran (FINALLY running ten minute miles again), went grocery shopping (I love grocery shopping at home, let alone at the grocery stores here…they’re nothing short of magical) and attended a house meeting in the basement of our house.
I become something resembling outgoing when I’m completely out of my element like this. The house meeting was rather cramped, but definitely interesting. We were finally all in one place at one time (not a simple thing in such a small space) and heard about everyone’s interests and internship. The group is so diverse and interesting. There’s even a girl working at SNL who gets to meet everyone on the show! The meeting devolved into a pizza party, starring slices of pizza bigger than my head.
This morning we attended yet another, more official meeting regarding program expectations and goals. The program fuses visual arts with creative writing, so I got a sense of just how much exposure I will get outside of my element. I couldn’t be more open to that—I don’t know how other artists feel, but my experience with poetry is that it’s informed by everything in the universe that evokes a reaction. I love to quote Robert Frost when he said “to be a poet is a condition, not a profession.” I see everything through the lens of poetry. In New York, we’ll have the opportunity to experience an entire world that just doesn’t exist anywhere else.
Like, for instance, the fact that I just found out there’s a trip organized to see a play tonight. I discovered that only a couple hours ago, and soon I’ll be off to the theater. That’s an incredible feeling. In a town like Kalamazoo, it’s a big deal to see a professional show. Miller Auditorium (part of Western Michigan University) plays host to some great touring companies, but only every so often. Otherwise it requires some traveling and planning. Right off the bat, there are three opportunities to go to shows just this week…and even then, those are just the shows that the NYAP have organized for us. I’ll probably see more in New York City than I’ve ever seen in my life combined.
Tonight we’re going to “The Strangest,” which is a show based on Albert Camus’ “The Stranger. I’ve read a little bit about it, and apparently it explores the Arab’s character, the man who is shot in the original book. At first I wasn’t totally sure how I felt about this play. After acquiring some more in-depth knowledge in the realm of existentialism from my philosophy classes at K, I can revisit the main character of “The Stranger” as an example of the existential struggle. I can’t say that I’m totally an expert on existentialism, and I haven’t read the book since high school…but Meursault isn’t alive at all. When we discussed existentialism in Philosophy and Literature my freshman year of college the term “authenticity” was thrown around often. My take on this: every person in the entire world fills some kind of niche in the human spectrum. Lawyer, father, husband, killer—the social labels. The goal of authenticity isn’t anything like the romantic notion of finding yourself and breaking free of society. Breaking free of those roles is impossible. What’s more important is to maintain a vital relationship to those roles—to become yourself by actively taking up the roles, rather than passively allowing the roles to define you. Heidegger (a philosopher) claims the solution to inauthentic living as “being-towards-death.” A break-down situation, something so dire that it seems that life as you know it is completely over, brings you back down to identity ground zero. From there, you can start over—form the vital, self-legislated relationships with your life-roles that will allow you to live authentically.
Meursault experiences this kind of epiphany in “The Stranger.” In his jail cell on death row he’s reduced to absolutely nothing—he realizes, in the face of death, that he really does want to live life. Live it, not just breath. I can’t think of a more literal representation of Heidegger’s “being-towards-death.” Initially, I was a little put off by the idea of a play focusing on the Arab. I thought “whoever wrote this play missed the point of the entire book.” I’ve since realized that the author of this play had actually hit upon some interesting points that I hadn’t evaluated upon reading “The Stranger:” discrimination hidden beneath the message, among others. Couldn’t Meursault just have easily killed another white man, and the character’s existential struggled have remained the same? Sometimes we can get so blinded by one interpretation of a work that we don’t take the time to examine it from other angles.
More on this play tomorrow…