Sunday, May 21, 2017

Children of dust and ashes

Sometimes I randomly find new or old musicals and get obsessed with one or two songs from those musicals. (Sometimes, it's the entire musical, like with Hamilton.) But the other day a New York Times update buzzed on my phone saying that a musical called Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 had been nominated for 12 Tony awards.

It caught my attention because it's an adaptation of War and Peace. And basically anything that has to do with Tolstoy or War and Peace will definitely catch my attention.

Anyway. I've been listening to the some songs. And there's one that I'm just obsessed with. It's sung by Pierre, who is (arguably) the main character of the novel. Pierre's great. And by great, I also mean that he's confused, searching, kind, selfish, and ultimately has a beautifully messy soul. I love his character arc and watching him grow. He has a lot of "ah-a!" moments in the novel, but they don't always last (but that's also so realistic--often we have those moments where we recognize that we have to change, and we fully want to, but then life happens and we forget, or we lose our zeal--and then we have to be reminded of our need to change--and the other beautiful thing about Tolstoy novels is that there is no statute of limitations of the amount of times someone can recommit to changing their lives).

The song I've been obsessed with (and thus the one that gets featured on my blog) is a song sung by Pierre after he's dueled a friend of his (such a trope in Russian novels and it never goes well), and he realizes that he has to make some major life changes. And the song is just so beautiful, powerful, and full of Russian existential angst--it captures the essence of Pierre:

Is this how I die? 
Ridiculed and laughed at
Wearing clown shoes. 
Is this how I die? 
Furious and reckless 
Sick with booze. 

How did I live? 
I taste every wasted minute
Every time I turned away 
From the things that might have healed me. 
How long have I been sleeping?

Is this how I die? 
Frightened like a child
Lazy and numb. 
Is this how I die? 
Pretending and preposterous 
and dumb. 

How did I live? 
Was I kind enough and good enough? 
Did I love enough? 
Did I ever look up 
and see the moon 
and the stars
and the sky? 
Oh why I have been sleeping?  

They say we are asleep 
until we fall in love. 
We are children of dust and ashes. 
But when we fall in love we wake up 
And we are a God 
and angels weep. 
But if I die here tonight
I die in my sleep. 

All of my life I spent searching the words
of poets and saints and prophets and kings
and now at the end all I know that I've learned
is that all that I know is I don't know a thing. 

So easy to close off 
place the blame outside 
hiding in my room at night
so terrified. 
All the things I could have been 
but I never had the nerve
love and life
I don't deserve. 

So all right, all right
I've had my time
close my eyes
let the death bells chime. 

Bury me in burgundy 
I just don't care. 
Nothing's left
I've looked everywhere.

Is this how I die? 
Was there ever any other way my life could be? 
Is this how I die? 
Such a storm of feelings inside of me?  

But then why am I screaming? 
Why am I shaking? 
Was there something that I missed? 
Did I squander my divinity? 
Was happiness within me the whole time? 

They say we are asleep 
Until we fall in love 
We are children of dust and ashes. 
But when we fall in love we wake up 
and we are a God
and angels weep. 
But if I die here tonight 
I die in my sleep. 

They say we are asleep 
until we fall in love. 
And I'm so ready 
to wake up now. 

I want to wake up. 
Don't let me die while I'm like this. 
I want to wake up 
Don't let me die while I'm like this
Please let me wake up now
Don't let me die while I'm like this
I'm ready
I'm ready 
To wake up. 

There you go. My latest/not-so-latest obsession (because I've been obsessed with Tolstoy for years now). But it just speaks to my soul. And I love Pierre.

"It was clear and frosty. A dark, starlit heaven looked down on the black roofs and the dirty, dusky streets. Only by looking up at the sky could Pierre distance himself from the disgusting squalor of all earthly things as compared with the heights to which his soul had now been taken. 

“And there in the middle, high about Prechistensky Boulevard, amidst a scattering of stars on every side but catching the eye through its closeness to the earth, its pure white light and the long uplift of its tail, shone the comet, the huge, brilliant comet of 1812, that popular harbinger of untold horrors and the end of the world. But this bright comet with its long, shiny tail held no fears for Pierre. Quite the reverse: Pierre’s eyes glittered with tears of rapture as he gazed up at this radiant star, which must have traced its parabola through infinite space at speeds unimaginable and now suddenly seemed to have picked its spot in the black sky and impaled itself like an arrow piercing the earth, and stuck there, with its strong upthrusting tail and its brilliant display of whiteness amidst the infinity of scintillating stars. This heavenly body seemed perfectly attuned to Pierre’s newly melted heart, as it gathered reassurance and blossomed into new life.” (War and Peace 663)

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