I believe in the Muses in the way I believe in all the gods. It is hard to deny them when their workings are everywhere manifest in the world. There is something “supernatural” in the production of beauty; rules applied by mere mortals that allow the creation of beauty worthy of God. I often explain this to my students by referencing one of the exceptional English and Writing teachers at our school. She has inspired my own children as they have participated in her classes. I ask the class if any have had poetry from Ms. Merrill. When those lucky ones raise their hands I remind them of the time she taught them the basic rules of poetry and then had them apply those rules to some random words and; what occurred? Yes indeed – they created something wonderful. I continue the point by asking if they ever wrote something – in answer to a question perhaps - and then found in their answer nuances of understanding, even insight, that they of themselves did not possess. Most everyone attests to such a miracle of the Muses. I myself have painted human figures, and found myself staring into their eyes, “how beautiful you are,” I have thought, “and I made you out of mud (pigment) and tree sap (gum Arabic binder). It must be the Muse! This is why the Greeks placed the poets above the prophets. A prophet merely recites the words of god; a poet, under the inspiration of a Muse, transforms words into new creations of beauty that have life beyond the artist. Often the writer does not even understand the power he creates; the magic is beyond his mortal comprehension. I have often thought of Twain’s disclaimer in *Huckleberry Finn* as an example of a wise author acknowledging that the might of the Muse is beyond his design, and his book will reach beyond his vision.
This manifestation of the magic of the Muses and the mortality of the Poet is found in the works of many playwrights, from Aeschylus to Arthur Miller. Next fall I will be directing the Miller play, *The Crucible* at our high school. I have avoided the work for years because of its over utilization by English teachers, and its misapplication in the Social Studies. The story, of how fanatic religion over powers reason to result in the most ungodly atrocities in the universe, is misread by most Social Studies teachers and political spin misters. Everywhere they misapply the horrible atrocity in colonial America to the anti Communist zealousness of Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activity.
It has always troubled me that McCarthy was made into the villain of the Cold War. I don’t excuse his wrong doing; he failed at his noble cause of defending freedom when he became what he hated. But Miller fails when he dismisses the evils of Communism to condemn McCarthy, as if McCarthy was representative of America. To quote Miller’s own words from http://www.playbill.com/ (An article furnished me by our Drama Director at the high school). Miller says, “There were monuments in those days when there was no way to respond logically or reasonably to what was happening. Yes, we were in a cold war with the Soviets, and the Communists had taken over China, and there was the fear of nuclear destruction. But the cure for the fears was false, taking people who had no connection to sabotage and throwing them all together and calling them traitors and destroying a lot of lives.” Reducing the atrocities of Communism to the Cold War and the fear of nuclear attacks, elevating the atrocity of blacklisting and name calling above that of the mass murder of tens of millions of human beings, and the enslavement of billions more, demonstrate that Miller ‘s Muse speaks beyond Miller’s mind.
The real monsters of the “Cold War” were in Moscow, Peking, and Hanoi, not in Washington. Thankfully Miller’s Muse allowed him to write an allegory of fanaticism that applied to the gulags and the death camps of Stalin, Brezhnev, Mao, Ho, and Pow Pot. Sham on the small minded who could not see the divine truth, but rather choose to imagine that *The Crucible* told a story applicable to their petty concerns. The real witchcraft in this misunderstanding of Art is that the monster of Communism could be transformed by the pampered liberals of America into the victims. The true devilry was that the term “McCarthyism” became a sledgehammer pejorative, while decrying Communism became a social crime.
Now the mystery of Miller’s play will be made manifest in the present world. This summer Liam Neeson and Laura Linney are staring in a reprisal directed by Sir Richard Eyre. Eyre speaks inspired truth when he says, *The Crucible* will “always be pertinent to any society of whatever political leanings, because it’s about something fundamental – the tension between freedom and repression .” Now we will see if the miracle of the Muses will be recognized or denied. Will the critics see in the religious fanatics of Salem, fiends who crushed a man under stones to force him to confess to a crime that cannot exist and hanged 19 men and women for being witches, as an indictment of fanatic Islam that buries women alive for seeking education, and the tyranny of the cult of Saddam that instigated the murder of millions, or if the Art of Art Miller will be reduced to a political screed against the champions of individual liberty and freedom of choice that struggle to end “murder in the name of God” – surely the most damning manifestation of the Devil’s possession of mankind.
It will be revealing to see how Eyre’s version of *The Crucible* plays with the critics, if they notice it at all. I will be interested to see what the dark memories of Puritan fanaticism conger. Will it be the truth about the Islamic Fascists who murder and terrorize their way to power, or a misrepresentation of the forces that stand against them?
I will attempt to present things with less ambiguity with my production at the high school; which will get no press at all. I have been toying with the idea of dressing my actors as Taliban fanatics and placing the trial in Kabul before its liberation. I will have the summer to think it out. At the very least I will enlist the Muse in revealing the truth about where the real religious fanatics of today are to be found.
Summer is upon us; summer takes me away from the Agora. I would like to thank all who have read and contributed to our discussions over the past months. Next week, our house will be in remodel mode; Computer piled in a back room. I will keep in touch from one of the computers at school but I will not be able to compose another post for a while. In a few weeks I will be leaving computer terminals and the internet links behind for over two months. I will also be away from newspapers, radios, and televisions. The world will go on without me, but I like to think that I will be doing my part to make it better. I am grateful that such places as the one to which I am going can still be found. I am humbled by the fact that for nine weeks I will be blessed to spend 24/7 in a place of peace and bliss; Heaven with challenges. My thoughts and prayers will always be with those who defend our precious peace and freedom. As I enjoy the privileges that my heroes purchase at such great cost, I will do my best to give to those I serve the joy that America offers to the world. See you in September!
2 years ago