Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thane of Cawdor

(Sandy, Tiffany, and Anne practice their corporate witches routine)

“All Hail Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor.” -Act I, scene 3

“If it were done when ‘tis done, there t’were well
It were done quickly.” - Act I, scene 7

"Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee;
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.” Act II, scene 1

All my life I have chased it, that dangling, glistening, carrot of… what? I don’t know what it is or what I am supposed to do with it. It is not so much that I had to have it or that I was afraid of failing to get it, but more the terror that at the moment of grasping I wouldn’t be up for the challenge. If another beat me, fine. If another cheated me, okay. But let me beat or cheat myself and I’d rather die.
I used to try and explain it to people. I’d tell them that story of the Scorpion and the Frog. You know the one. Frog doesn’t want to carry Scorpion across the lake. Said Scorpion promises no funny business. Gullible Frog relents. Evil Scorpion stings them mid way and they both drown. Parting words…”Glug. Glug. It is my nature. Glug. Glug.”
I know. It’s stupid, right? But I believed it nevertheless.
The question plagues me still. Why do I grasp at the things that hurt me? Why do I always choose the path of self-destruction?
I light my body on fire. I spend years abusing myself with substances. I marry the wrong woman. I alienate people. I push those that love me unconditionally away. I used to tell myself that happiness was like greed, an evil thought. That this wasn’t actually misery I was feeling, that I was somehow above it. That I could grasp onto to work or self-interest or something that would sustain me. And it did, for a while. Maybe I just didn’t want to let anyone down. I guess I still feel that way too.
I tell this to my students.
“Teacher, but Macbeth knew this too,” Kevin said. “He was given a chance to grab that dagger and he took it. He stabbed the King and took the crown for himself.”
“Yeah, but it cost him everything. “Kitty argued. “His family died. He lost his reputation. The people hated him.”
“No way!” Kevin shook her off. “Macbeth is a Baller. Don’t hate the playa, hate the game…”
Kevin’s voice trailed off into a series of high fives and raucous laughter. What have I been teaching these kids? I’ve created monsters.
“But Shakespeare knew it too,” Sonya added. “His characters are racked with guilt, conflicted by the choices they make or don’t make.”
I step toward the front of the class. “Yes, they call those soliloquies, or inner thoughts. Carl Jung called them the ‘Collective Unconscious,’ but I like to refer to them as ‘B-Sides of the Alpha Male.”
“Huh?” My students quickly pick up their pencils and scribble notes curiously as I explain. How B-Sides are those lesser known gems of feeling residing on the LP backs of records, the ones the real music lovers crave, where a band’s true sound is not destroyed by constant radio play and over exposure. It is the humanity we never get to see in real life. I guess that is one of the reasons I chose to poke fun at American Idol in our play. I just reject anything that’s sole purpose is to make me want to purchase and consume it, to work even harder to obtain more of it, to let that be my nature, to let that be my collective soul.
The class nodded. I think they understood.
Then Michael, who is playing Lady Mac Gaga, said it best. We had been talking before about why we were putting so much effort into our performance despite their being no grade mark or placement test incentive. Even the Chinese homeroom teacher they call ‘Octopus Lips’ belittles it, saying not to get too caught up in this acting business. “Shakespeare won’t get you a job. Shakespeare won’t put clothes on your back or rice in your belly. Shakespeare won’t take care of your parents when they are old.”
So the actor playing Lady Macbeth sighed.
“All they want is for us to study seven days a week so that we can get into a prestigious high school, so that we can attend a private college, so that we can get a better job, so that we can buy a car and house and get a handsome spouse and then let our parents move in so that we can take care of them.”
He sank deep down in his chair.
Then Tiffany, who is playing one of the Corporate Witches, piped in. “All our school cares about is if we do well on tests, so that they can publish our results, so that they can have more students and charge more money, and then the owners can become richer and buy more schools.”
The room was actually getting darker as they spoke. Eerie clouds rolled in and a heavy mist formed out the window. “I know. I know.” I whisper. “We’re all chasing something.
“Teacher Brian,” Michael asks, “What are you chasing?”
I look out the window and cross my arms. I don’t want to answer. I don’t want to have to tell. But then in these thoughts, I completely forget. How is that possible? “Oh yeah.” It suddenly comes back to me. “I’m chasing my dreams.”
I don’t think they believed me either.


  1. H-
    Heyhey! You really need to check your email more often! :D

  2. It's ok...
    many people keep chasing entire life
    but still don't know what they chase about.