Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!
Four new participants joined our international group today for two readings of a short monologue from the Tony Kushner play, “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. Part 2: Perestroika.” Our discussion began with “What places does this text bring us?” Brief stage directions cued us to the character’s physical location (the window seat of an airborne jumbo jet), and participants discussed the dual sense of internal and external space as Harper flies West in a spiritual realm offering a perspective of oneself as well as a connection to souls rising. We identified a dream space, celestial room for a greater purpose to emerge. The unity of suffering reminded one participant of post-9/11 memories. We discussed how the narrator expresses a confidence in her ability to see things, and how the mood shifts from darkness to the recognition of suffering that accompanies painful progress.
Our prompt today was: Write about what only you can see. The first writing was brief and puzzling, almost like a Buddhist koan — it offered that what others say they see and you cannot, is at odds with what you see and they cannot — a universal nod to our limitations in both communication and understanding. The second offering took us on a lyrical memory journey of childhood, death, aging and the light of beauty that is an internalization of all that we see throughout our lives; relating back to the external and internal movement of our close reading text. A third reflection started with the notion of “seeing beyond the skin” that is enhanced in walking through nature; a special journey the writer seeks to share with patients hoping that they will “see” as well. This evoked connection to our text and the special power of seeing what others cannot yet trying to communicate the experience through listening and sharing. Our final share presented us with the observation that only we can see our own dreams — dreams are for us alone; though we often long to share our dreams we are mostly glad to be the only one who sees them. A line about “dreams being nothing more than the mind processing” provoked the question “why is this a diminished value”, as dreams provide such opportunity to imagine?
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(Night. Harper appears. She is in a window seat on board a jumbo jet, airborne.)
HARPER: Night flight to San Francisco. Chase the moon across America. God! It’s been years since I was on a plane! When we hit thirty-five thousand feet, we’ll have reached the tropopause. The great belt of calm air. As close as I’ll ever get to the ozone. I dreamed we were there. The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air, and attained the outer rim, the ozone, which was ragged and torn, patches of it threadbare as old cheesecloth, and that was frightening… But I saw something only I could see, because of my astonishing ability to see such things: Souls were rising, from the earth far below, souls of the dead, of people who had perished, from famine, from war, from the plague, and they floated up, like skydivers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning. And the souls of these departed joined hands, clasped ankles, and formed a web, a great net of souls, and the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules, of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them, and was repaired. Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so.