Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Made in Heaven

The cover to Queen's album Made in Heaven
Tonight, I listened and sang along to Queen's album Made in Heaven.
Suddenly, doing the dishes, I realized it's the only music I've been listening to for two weeks.
Sometimes, in life, you discover that an artist - a writer, a musician, or maybe a painter - has come to a point of his artistic production where he has gone deeper towards a truth. This often happens when the artist nears death.
Made in Heaven was completed right after Freddie Mercury died from aids; the three remaining members of the band worked on the vocal material that Freddie had left for them to rearrange into thirteen heart-breaking tracks. Guitarist Brian May recalled in an interview how Freddie Mercury, a few weeks before the end, said: "Write anything and I'll sing it".
Freddie Mercury approached his final days singing like never before; imagine Luciano Pavarotti performing a high C from the chest while in his deathbed.

Listening to each song over and over again, I kept asking myself what made them so beautiful and, most of all, so touching. I understood that Freddie Mercury sang his last bits of life out. At times, like in "A Winter's Tale", his voice flickers perceptibly. In that split second, everything seems to be breaking to pieces; but he suddenly recovers, and again his voice reaches unequaled heights.
"Mother Love", the last song he ever performed, was left incomplete; his aching yet still powerful voice possesses at once sadness and hope, but the final verse was sung by Brian May because Freddie Mercury was not able to do so anymore. Towards the end, fractions of each song produced by Queen throughout their career were shrunk into two or three seconds; then, the sound fades away into the crying of a baby. I immediately thought of the theory according to which, at the end of our life, we have a light-quick glimpse of the most meaningful moments of our existence; in "Mother Love", something visual was beautifully transposed into music. 

How could he sing so marvelously, I wondered. He knew that the end was approaching, and everything had to be done on borrowed time. How could depression not take over? How could he find the strenght not just to sing, but to do so as no one else could ever do? There must have been something so much stronger than death keeping him up; his passion, the profound friendship with the band members. But what else?

Then I thought of my beloved dog.
O, Brother. He kept wagging his tail looking at us, asking for a last gentle caress, until he fell into a deep final slumber.
So I understood.
It was an intense love for life, however painful it might be. It was an ardent attachment to something that, all in all, is just purely and simply beautiful; a true sublimation of life itself through death.

A few months ago at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York, a character I played in a scene was consciously approaching death. I was instinctually brought to portray a very depressed person. The teacher interrupted the scene and asked me with a degree of impatience, "What are you doing, Jay?!".
"I'm dying", I replied.
"No, you're not. You're wanting to live."

Today, I fully understood what my teacher meant.

Is there an album, a symphony, or a kind of music that brings you to deeper introspective thoughts?


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Star Dreams

Star dreams have always been "my thing" since I was a kid. Reviewing them, I discovered that my star dreams present similarities: they usually convey uncomfortable messages, and they happen whenever I'm going through emotionally overwhelming experiences.

My first dream involving stars had me gazing at them from a high platform on a solitary night. Suddenly, some of the stars - which we all know are fixed dots on the vault of heaven - forming a constellation quickly line up in the sky, creating a pattern that I had referred to in my diary as chained stars for lack of a better term. I remember waking up in utter terror. I interpreted it as a change in the order of things inside of me. So, I titled my dream Novus Ordo Siderum.
More recently, I've dreamed of one very bright star crossing the sky and falling to earth, causing an explosion. The star is followed by the moon, which also crosses the sky and falls to earth. Another explosion, this time, generates a violent shock wave that quickly destroys everything on its path, vanishing a few inches from where I'm standing. Again, I was perturbed when I woke up.
A few nights ago, I've dreamed of a group of celestial bodies similar to the Pleiades. I knew they were the five planets that, in this period, are visible in the night sky: Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury. In the dream, I decide to have a better look at them with my binoculars, and I marvel at the sight of a small circular system where the five planets are revolving around its center. Jupiter is the most spectacular one: a sphere with fluids and gasses gliding and shifting on its surface, making the planet's appearance constantly change.

Doing research, I discovered some notable examples of very similar dreams.
I'll mention three of them.
The Book of Enoch describes seven stars "chained like great mountains and burning with fire", to symbolize the seven fallen angels condemned to punishment. Enoch uses the same term I used: chained. I was in awe when I found out.
Lars Von Trier included in his two latest movies, The Antichrist and Melancholia, some pretty menacing star themes: in the first, the male protagonist utters in total fear "There is no such constellation" upon seeing in the sky a constellation that doesn't really exist. This symbolizes a disruption in the character's psychic order. Melancholia features the end of the world by a planet crashing against earth; the first apocalyptic sign of doom is the disappearance of a fixed star from its normal position in a constellation. Again, a rupture of the normal order of things.

This gives confirmation - like pschiatrist C.G. Jung discovered - that the symbols produced by the human psyche are related to the personal unconscious of a single individual; yet, they also reflect the collective cultural and mythological baggage shared by the whole human race.

Have you ever had dreams involving stars?


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We Are All Social Actors

We're all familiar, I'm sure, with the Shakespeare verses that read All the world's a stage, / And all the men and women merely players: / They have their exits and their entrances; / And one man in his time plays many parts, so let me not quote them here.
Society oftentimes - if not always - requires us to behave, speak, walk, or dress according to certain conventions. Sometimes we're lucky and those conventions allow us to express who we are without having to censor or repress the interesting sides of our personality; sometimes, though, we can't fully be ourselves, or, let's say, we need to moderate our self.

It's not necessary to think of "huge" events such as public speeches, gala parties, or presidential dinners when referring to a social context. A first date, for example, will do.
Can we really say we are being ourselves on a first date? Speaking for myself, yes, I am being myself. Of course, I am not fully being myself, in the sense that it is in the best interest of my intentions to show my date the most pleasing side of me first; so, I try to coherently convey my personality in a more charming, dim-lit, and vibrant way. But mind, this doesn't mean I'm lying or giving a distorted image of me. Maybe some people do; I don't.
Same goes for a job interview: we dress up in ways we wouldn't normally do and, during the event, we probably speak with a pitched voice or find other ways to impress our possible employer.

Sometimes I smirk when people ask me, "You're an actor, how do I know you're not acting?". My favorite answer is, "Why, are you not acting now?".
Personally, the best actors I've seen - and the "best" liars, and the "best" fakers too - were not in the movies or on the stage, but in real life contexts and - marvel of all marvels - they were not professional actors, in a manner of speaking.

The bottom line is, we all act, even if we're not always aware of it.
I don't think it is a bad thing per se; social acting should mean to me conveying our personality through forms that enhance its qualities according to the context we're in. Certainly, like for everything, the proper balance is required and certain lines should not be crossed.
Then, if social acting robs us of our spontaneity or it simply means lying, that is a totally different story.

Do you consider yourself an actor in life?
Do you think social acting limits the expression of your personality or it's a good tool to enhance it?


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

All Beautiful Things Come to an End

Ciao, Piccolo Mio.

You are Universe now. We will be Universe together one day.

Goodbye my Dear, Loyal, Beloved Brother.