Hello my friends,
Some of you may remember receiving greetings from me thirteen months ago when I found the date 01-01-01 irresistible. I have now realised that there is going to be an irresistible date every thirteen months for some years to come. So here is another message.
One thing I learned last year is that when I send an email message to hundreds of people, I get dozens of responses the next day. I do apologise for not responding to each of you; my hands have recovered remarkably from that injury twelve years ago, but I do still put limits on what I can do. I will read your response--and if you have changed your mailing address, do let me know because I am updating the list for the next newsletter.
Besides being 02-02-02, today is special in at least two other ways. First of all, it is Groundhog Day. Somewhere in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (a place I once visited on tour with the Men's Glee Club of the College of Wooster) a groundhog has seen its shadow--or not. And the northern hemisphere will have six more weeks of winter--or not.
The amazing thing about Groundhog Day on this side of the ocean is that most people only know of it through the film. And many people think that the groundhog's shadow is just a joke for the film rather than a truly American festival. So what people here think of on Groundhog Day is the film's idea that sometimes we have to keep repeating until we get it right.
You may remember that the character in the film has to keep repeating Groundhog Day because his behaviour is self-centred, obnoxious, overbearing, and his working assumption is: "I'm the most powerful and important person around here so too bad for the rest of you suffering people." Eventually, he learns to notice other people and to reach out to them. Eventually, in other words, he learns to be human.
Given the events of recent months--and recent centuries--humankind does seem to need that kind of Groundhog Day. A day to do over and over again until we finally get it right. So today I'm going to check my assumptions about myself and others--and aim to learn more about being human.
Today is also an anniversary. On this date four hundred years ago, the first recorded performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night took place in the Middle Temple Hall in London. To celebrate that evening and this evening, a group of actors from the Globe Theatre company are at this very moment preparing to step out into the Middle Temple Hall--into the very same room that Shakespeare and his fellow actors stepped into four hundred years ago. The performance will be magical.
I know it will be magical because we were there two nights ago. The current production is running for about three weeks. Naturally I wanted to be there because of the anniversary and because of the chance to see the amazing Middle Temple Hall. But I also wanted to be there because nearly forty years ago I appeared in a production of Twelfth Night at the College of Wooster. I played Sir Andrew Aguecheek and my friend Chuck Gabriel played Sir Toby Belch. We were not the greatest actors. But Mr. Logan, our director, believed in us and together we created magic.
Last June at our 35th college reunion, Chuck and I met for the first time in years and immediately shouted out our lines: "How now, Sir Toby Belch!" "Sweet Sir Andrew!" Chuck was recovering from an operation and fighting several health problems. He was limping and in pain. And he was in full flow with memories and ideas. His huge voice, huge energy, huge presence filled the room. He died a month later.
Two nights ago as Rosemary and I sat down in the Middle Temple Hall, I found the chair next to me still empty. I leaned over to Rosemary and said that I wished Chuck could be here. She then said something magical: "He is here. And so are all the other Sir Tobys." With tears in my eyes, I felt the room fill with the spirits of all those who have acted in Twelfth Night over the past four hundred years. I thought of the laughter and the learning, the music and the silence, the loss and the love that those spirits have shared.
And I realised that I am one of those spirits too. And so is everyone who ever watched the play or supported the play backstage. That is a lot of spirits, a lot of spirit energy.
You may remember that last year I suggested that the world could use more grandparent energy--the kind of energy that commits to preserving this world for our grandchildren, and for the generations that will follow them. We certainly need that kind of energy now. And we also need the spirit energy. We need the energy of all those who have gone before us, who did their best with their own grandparent energy--their belief that our generation was worth helping on its way.
So on this special day of 02-02-02, I'm remembering that I need to keep repeating until I get it right. And I'm remembering that what I need to repeat is the spirit energy, the grandparent energy, the love that flows from the past into the future.
Love to each of you,