Sunday, July 4, 2010

independence and anomie

On what must have been a Wednesday during my December 1973 holiday break I went into Manhattan to see some Broadway shows. We didn't have any tickets but figured we'd wait on the lines for half priced shows that met our student budgets. We really scored that day seeing That Championship Season in the matinee and then Pippin in the evening. We splurged nearly breaking our bank accounts even with the discounts paying something like 15 bucks a seat, but were in the orchestra down low for both shows.

I liked That Championship Season, but Pippin--which I'd known nothing about previously, touched and left a mark on my heart.

Usually it takes me a while to get the lyrics to a musical and one performance won't do it. An example is Evita. I saw that with my brother and minutes afterwords he was laughing recalling lines that I'd never heard or understood until I bought a recording and listened to it many times. But with Pippin, I got it right away. Maybe it was because I was 23 at the time and identified with a character who in his first appearance sang a song with a refrain that I thought was right on target.

"Rivers belong where they can ramble.
Eagles belong where they can fly.
I want to be where my spirit can run free.
Want to find my corner of the sky."

Several lyrics from the show surface now and again, but the one that has seeped into my consciousness regularly this weekend is the line not from the beginning of the show, but from the end when Pippin realizes:

"I'm not a river or a giant bird
that soars to the sea
and if I'm not tied to anything
I'll never be free."

I have often thought of myself as very independent. According to my folks I was that way even as a toddler. But the gap between independence and anomie is, at once, not large AND cavernous.

Anomie--that sense of being disconnected and isolated and, "not tied to anything" may seem desirable, but if I have learned five things in my 60 plus revolutions around the track, one of these five is that independence without genuine connectivity is an illusion. Being genuinely connected, heart to heart, is emancipating. Of course artificial connectivity can create an illusion of being emancipated--and then subsequently you find yourself tied up in knots. But truly being connected, I think, that is what makes one independent.

Firecrackers are likely to start bursting any minute now in downtown Boston. A lot of noise and a lot of revelry as the Boston Pops cranks out Stars and Stripes forever.

Those truly celebrating independence are holding on and allowing themselves to be held.

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