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“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”
From:
Mary L. Flett, Ph.D. Mary L. Flett, Ph.D.
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Francisco Bay Area , CA
Monday, September 07, 2020

 

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Where do I start this week?  Should I start with the long-term effects on my psychological state from being sequestered in my home (as lovely as it is) for weeks on end due to poor air quality from fires?  Should I start with my gastrointestinal system no longer agreeing to perform as I demand totally disregarding the potato chips, fried foods, and pizza I have consumed?  Should I start with my aches and pains due to lack of exercise, compounded by my lack of motivation to exercise in the first place?  Or do I start with the effects of a full moon on my sleep pattern?  But wait, perhaps there are other places where I should start, if only I could find pencil and paper to jot these down.

I sometimes feel as if I have been cast in Theater of the Absurd!

Bald SopranoI was first introduced to Theater of the Absurd when I was in high school. Our drama class staged a production of The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco. I was cast as Mary the Maid, (which began a long career of playing maids and other character roles). The play, set in a middle-class living room, makes absolutely no sense, but the audience is lulled into trying to make meaning out of the everyday snippets of disconnected-from-reality conversation. Kind of like watching Fox & Friends.

Theater of the Absurd arose in post-war Europe with plays written by Jean Genet, Eugene Ionesco, and Samuel Beckett. These playwrights illuminated the disconnect between the horrors of the Holocaust and the reality of living under threat of the atomic bomb with how limited our philosophic and spiritual explanations for these things were.

waiting-for-godotReality, authenticity, and “truth” are the philosophical underpinnings of existentialism, whose primary tenents are that life has no meaning and humans are devoid of purpose. While you may not be familiar with this genre, you probably have heard of Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece. It embraces the existentialism of Albert Camus, and holds up to ridicule the pedestrian, middle-class acceptance of authority and denial of “reality”.

The irony here (at least to me) is that in exploring what “no-meaning” means, we are acting purposefully and making meaning out of what we find out.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Right now I feel as if I am like one of Beckett’s characters. This is what comes of a liberal arts education and a degree in Literature!  I go about my day, following proscribed rituals (bathing, eating, working), only to find myself sitting in front of the television at night trying to distract myself from the fact that I produced little of note and feeling exhausted from the effort. I rinse and repeat in what seems an endless and purposeless futile eternity. [For those of you who are concerned for my welfare, please ease your mind – this is an exercise for me, and I am taking advantage of my author’s right to exaggerate for effect.]

Days melt into one another since there is little to delineate difference. The tasks I do with regularity have been interrupted only by having to stay socially distanced and masked. While I know people are dying by the thousands, I remain healthy. While I know people are out of work and are being evicted, I have things that provide income and have a roof over my head. While I know people are languishing in nursing homes unable to be hugged or attend groups because of fears of COVID, I find connection in Zoom groups and in long conversations with friends.

mother_naturePlus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I am short-tempered with people who seek greater meaning in this pandemic, yet find myself saying, “Mother Nature is angry with us!” and possibly even believe at some level that she is vindictive and is paying us back for being too selfish. I read my horoscopes in the hopes that the future will be better, but quickly forget what I have read.

spanish pythonI carry on internal inquisitions that rival the ones held by Spanish clergy and condemn those who refuse to wear masks and gather in groups. I stare at my refrigerator as if it will magically produce a healthy, balanced meal out of stale bread, left-overs, and milk that is on the verge of going bad. I end up in circular conversations with friends, often asking, “Have I told you this before?”  Prior to this most were usually polite and would say, “No – go ahead!”, now they just tell me outright that I am repeating myself, and glance at me with pity, assuming I am in the early stages of dementia.

I am now very familiar with my neighbor’s habits at 3:00 and 4:00 am and am quite surprised at how many of us are up at that hour!  I suspect that we use the agreed-upon explanation of having to pee as cover for the more truthful admission that our minds are racing and tabulating every ache and pain as confirmation that we are dying and will not see the sun rise.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The French are gifted in linguistic phrases, don’t you agree?  But it is Beckett who captures the rank absurdity of what we are going through now in Waiting for Godot. If you haven’t ever seen this play, there are several remarkable productions from the recent past available on YouTube or in DVD– famously, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan and Robin Williams and Steve Martin.

Patrick-Stewart-star-Ian-McKellen-Waiting-for-October-2013

Here, at the end of the show, the two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, are concluding their philosophical exploration of what they have been doing together while waiting for Godot:

ESTRAGON:
You say we have to come back tomorrow?
VLADIMIR:
Yes.
ESTRAGON:
Then we can bring a good bit of rope.
VLADIMIR:
Yes.
Silence.
VLADIMIR:
Yes.
ESTRAGON:
I can’t go on like this.
VLADIMIR:
That’s what you think.
ESTRAGON:
If we parted? That might be better for us.
VLADIMIR:
We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow. (Pause.) Unless Godot comes.
ESTRAGON:
And if he comes?
VLADIMIR:
We’ll be saved.
Vladimir takes off his hat (Lucky’s), peers inside it, feels about inside it, shakes it, knocks on the crown, puts it on again.
Well? Shall we go?
VLADIMIR:
Pull on your trousers.
ESTRAGON:
What?
VLADIMIR:
Pull on your trousers.
ESTRAGON:
You want me to pull off my trousers?
VLADIMIR:
Pull ON your trousers.
ESTRAGON:
(realizing his trousers are down). True. He pulls up his trousers.
VLADIMIR:
Well? Shall we go?
ESTRAGON:
Yes, let’s go.
They do not move.
Curtain

See you next week!

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Mary L Flett, PhD.
Group: Five Pillars of Aging
Dateline: Sonoma, CA United States
Direct Phone: 707-938-5531
Main Phone: 707-938-5531
Cell Phone: 707-303-6517
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