This is on the USS Rock N Roll Blog today:
St. Louis-born T.S. Eliot swore loyalty to the British crown and renounced American citizenship at the age of 39. His accent is very anglo, and the sound of his voice is ridiculously poncy. The last few years I’ve developed an arbitrarily strong distaste for his change of allegiance. American letters needs all the heroes it can spawn! But then I take a hard look at my own wannabe Euro antics: I harbor a fascination with the Premier League and BBC programming, pretend to speak French, and came home from two years in Ireland with what my friends called an accent*. The pot has already hung up with the kettle. My friend Tom says we must be aware when someone irritates, because they manifest something we don’t like about ourselves.
While trying to shape this post I did a good bit of staring out a diner window at the rain, hating March, and thinking ole Thomas Sterns was wrong about April being the cruelest month. I was awash in familiar waves of despondence. And that got me thinking about Prufrock, and that sometimes I think I should indeed have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas, and how much I find comfort in the words:
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of toast and tea.
I don’t really know if the poem’s middle-aged narrator made a *bollocks of his life with this philosophy, or if we are allowed unironic inspiration. While I think it’s true, damn beautiful, and gives succor, it’s perhaps not the message I personally should be imbibing at the moment. Frankly, despondence more often merits a sharper one.
Mike Enriquez was a force in Chicago improv for the last fifteen years. He passed away in January, and Levin wrote a lovely dedication to him here. Like Lev, I was not close to Mike, but we knew each other in passing from time spent at iO. In February the Chicago improv community had a well-attended ceremony to celebrate his life. Six people close to him spoke in great detail, beautifully honoring a dedicated, influential, passionate, funny, and kind person.
The timeline, I think elucidated by his best friend Tim Whetham, drove home a moving point. The ceremony on February 12 was a month to the day of his passing, and a year to the day he began chemo. I do not bring this up to be maudlin, but to try to get at the powerful message of his life. Everyone kept saying how he was a person who lived every day to the fullest, demanded the best possible work out of all his colleagues and students, and how he did it gracefully and with great kindness. And as if the tearful benedictions of how inspirational his story is (and how he made the last year of his life so much easier for the people around him with his unbelievable positivity) weren’t enough, the ceremony ended with a video of him skydiving. Carpe skydiving! in the lobby afterwards everyone got a Jell-O shot, to which he was partial.
There’s time for everything, until there isn’t. To be happy we must be calm with where we are, but also know the present can be taken away at any time. It’s so difficult, but the paradox is useful. It reminds me of George Will saying in Ken Burns’ Baseball that the game requires sensational equipoise: the rare skill of being simultaneously relaxed while ready instantly to spring to action. (How much this is like the difficulty of improvising.) There’s time for everything, until there isn’t. Let us go and make our visit.