forty-second part, called “subjective powers XLII,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

subjective powers

If we examine the impulse to dig deep, we find we are always looking for the truth down there, hoping it is a unique truth, not, at least, expecting it is not. And if we search the heights it is for the reasons of finding common understanding, the good thing we expect others to recognise, at least, hoping they will. God is dead, for example: we shout it at the marketplace.

On the stage, the situation is reversed. The hubbub over personal truth is laughable: it is because it’s not unique to us that we play it. As for a good thing that anybody is able to recognise in common with the others, well, there are only personal truths. There are in fact persona, the subjects we have been talking about.

A further reversal occurs: the one who holds her truth to belong to her alone, or who holds his values to be unique and defends them; or, she who attacks because she alone knows what it is inside her; is tragic. This comedy is what we all have in common. A chaos of impulses: each one reassigning its polarity to its opposite: there is no principle guiding it.

Yet, there is something guiding it, maintaining its narrative disorder in the case of comedy, and the order of its narrative in the case of tragedy. It has been thought that it is narrative alone, the stories that we tell ourselves. First there’s the story that I tell myself that I believe; then the story in which we all recognise ourselves, the story of the Fool (the fool who fools herself, the thief who steals from her own pocket, the trickster who is tricked himself by her own disguise, the one whose identity’s indeterminate). The stories, it is said, are necessary. Is it that? or is it the telling that is necessary?

Stories are how we make sense of the world, but this is exactly the reversal we have seen: the story that I tell myself is nonsense; yet it is that nonsense we all have in common. How do we progress in our collective insanity? tragically, but heroically, on our own? comically, but communally, democratically? In other words, what are the general orders given in our stories? This was the necessity we earlier talked of, to tell the stories necessary for the time, the necessity theatre was about. To give it, in Werner Herzog’s words, adequate images. Because in the current sense we have made of the world we recognise a tragic order, an order of necessity and of irreversibility, to which changing the narrative will make not the slightest difference.

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