Thursday, August 04, 2005

How do we keep the experience?

There's a movie I really like called Six Degrees of Separation. It's based on the play by John Guare, and these are his words, spoken by Ouisa Kittredge, played by Stockard Channing (who was Oscar-nominated for the role):

"And we turn him into an anecdote, to dine out on, like we're doing right now. But it was an experience. I will not turn him into an anecdote. How do we keep what happens to us? How do we fit it into life without turning it into an anecdote, with no teeth, and a punch line you'll mouth over and over, years to come: 'Oh, that reminds me of the time that impostor came into our lives. Oh, tell the one about that boy.' And we become these human jukeboxes, spilling out these anecdotes. But it was an experience. How do we keep the experience?"

It occurs to me that whenever any of us suffers a loss, there's a process by which the experience, now over, has to be turned into an anecdote, in order for us to move on from it. Everything that was powerful about that which we've lost, we have to diffuse. We have to lock away the sights, sounds, smells, touches, tastes, laughter, and the charge that's on every place we've been while that experience was going on -- or else the absence of that which we've lost becomes unbearable, and we can't move on.

I've been reassured that "she who dies with the most stories wins." Are the stories experiences or anecdotes? I've certainly got stories to tell. But I don't want them to be anecdotes that I entertain my friends with. I want to be able to revisit them privately in my own soul and relive them...but if I don't put them away, the grief never ends.

I'm sane and happy and productive today because many of my past experiences are now anecdotes. I guess there really is no harvest without sacrifice.