Saturday, November 8, 2008

Television! Teacher - Mother - Secret Lover...

There's a theory that we cry at happy endings because deep down in our psyche, we know such things to be impossible, causing us to envy the fantasy. Allow me to digress:

The morning that Princess Diana died, I woke up early to the sound of the television in the living room of our house. I stumbled blearily in from my room, and found my mother, coffee in hand, sitting close to the television, bathed in the blue of its' light. She normally woke up early, so this was no surprise, but I could tell by her body language that she was paralyzed as though something really major was happening to her right then and there. The only thing she managed to say to me after I had stared at her for a few seconds was, "she's dead," as though I should know exactly who she was.

Ever since then, I've associated the look of someone washed in only the blue light of a television with bad news, or sadness. It always seemed to me to be a very lonely image, something Edward Hopper would've painted today if he were alive to see television become the monster of unifying influence, precursor to the iPhone and internet.

Tuesday night, I caught sight of my reflection in our bedroom mirror as I sat up in bed watching the television. I looked just like my mother had that morning when one of the symbols of her generation died. Only, for me, one of the symbols of my generation was just being born. And I no longer associated the image of a single person, enraptured by the images playing out before him, with sadness. This time, we were unified in hope. If I was on the edge of my seat, it was only because I couldn't believe that you could assemble 240,000 people in Grant Park on that night for that purpose and have enough security to keep it all from going horribly wrong in an instant.

In both cases, what we were seeing on television in no way could destroy or save our lives. We as human beings long for that kind of drama, and so we apply it to ourselves. But for the first time, there was a happy ending to a story, and my tears were not envious. My tears were regretful that such happy endings, while not impossible, are so rare, and that the high, the elation of what were experiencing would be gone so quickly as the reality of the road ahead set in. It should not be diminished, I thought, before realizing there was one thing for me to hold on to: that thanks to this night, my associative memory has replaced an indelible image of tragedy with one of hope.

All for now.

1 comment:

daniel said...

I too was on the edge of my seat, waiting for a shot to ring out from high in the balconies and end this history in the making before it could happen. The fact that it didn't shows 1) how far we have come as a nation from our insane, hate-mongering beginnings and 2) the measure being taken to protect this change and make it permanent. W may later be hailed as the most important president of our time by ushering in such sweeping, drastic changes by his own failures.