The funny thing about hypochondria is that, in my experience, it has less to do with a fear of getting sick than a fear of going to the doctor. I scraped my hand on a rusty nail a couple of months ago and debated with myself over whether to go in for a tetanus shot. It’s been at least ten years or so since I last had one, and they can wear off in eight or nine anyway. At the same time, the scrape was so tiny that I had a hard time imagining any infection entering it, tetanus or otherwise. So I decided not to. It just didn’t seem fair that I should have to give up, I don’t know, an hour or a couple for something so innocuous. I turned out to be right. The scratch healed in no more than a couple days, and I never suffered any adverse symptoms. If I’d stepped on the nail, I would have dropped everything and rushed to the emergency room, and maybe it would have been a good idea to see a doctor even with a small scrape. I can’t speak for anyone except myself, but what mainly bugs me about the prospect of getting really sick or needing surgery is the inconvenience. In his movie, Hannah and Her Sisters, Woody Allen plays a chronic hypochondriac whose greatest wish seems to be that he actually will get sick for a change. It’s one of his best films, and part of what makes the character so interesting is that what he is really afraid of is uncertainty. If he knows he’s going to die, then he has nothing to worry about. Taking it on faith that you’re going to be alright is really difficult, and I still haven’t quite got the hang of it.
The problem, I think, it’s that any rational person understand that nothing lives forever, but they want to know how long they’ve got. Sure, 70-80 years might seem like a long time, but when you spend an entire afternoon lounging around without accomplishing anything, it’s easy to wonder if you’re wasting your time. I always hate it when people talk about how fast these last few years have flown by, because I actually find that time moves slower the more fun I’m having. I can’t remember if I’ve posted this song before, but here’s David Byrne saying basically what I’ve been trying to put into words for a while.
I feel the need to see some good live theater again. Living in New York, I have plenty to choose from, and I’m dying to see Once. One of the people in my program was trying to organize a group to see a show, and while I was pressing for Once (or The Lion King, which I’ve seen already but wouldn’t mind revisiting), a plurality wanted to see Wicked, a decent show that I saw once and don’t need to see again. Darn. I want to scream, “What is wrong with you people? Why see something as big and glitzy as Wicked when you can have something as sweet and intimate as Once?!?!?!” I guess some people just like spectacle. When my cousin, who is an actor, asked me if I preferred plays or musicals, I answered plays. “Everyone says musicals,” he responded. Perhaps the showy nature of musical theater makes for a better tourist attraction. All I know is that I have always found plays to be a more powerful and direct art form than musicals. Of course, we probably would have seen The Book of Mormon if tickets weren’t prohibitively expensive and probably still really, really hard to get.
Part of the fun of theater is the knowledge that what you are seeing cannot be replicated. Any actor will tell you that the difference between the best and worst performances is barely perceptible to most audiences, but I like the knowledge that what I am experiencing will exist only right here and right now, with no recording to preserve it for posterity. Sometimes people slip recording devices into plays anyway. That happened with one show that I was in a few years ago, although the person who recorded it either stopped after three scenes or decided to post only those three on YouTube. I’m not sure why they did it. It seems odd to do such a thing when you could just enjoy the show. I’ve made it my mission to see at least a couple of my favorite film and TV actors onstage, if I ever get the chance. Philip Seymour Hoffman does a lot of Broadway acting, and Christopher Eccleston–still one of my favorite Doctors–has said that he prefers stage acting because it gives the actors rather than the director final say over what the audience sees. I know talented theater actors who have no desire whatsoever to set foot in front of a camera, and while I’ve done only a little bit of screen acting myself, I know a few people who might be better suited to that than stage acting. They’re different beasts, certainly, and if I had a time machine, I would probably spend the first few months of it traveling back to see Orson Welles and John Gielgud onstage, along with the original cast of 1776. (That last one is of interest largely because I’m tired of people mythologizing historical figures, and approve of anything that shows them to be the flawed, backstabbing, sometimes petty people that they were.)
I often feel like I have so much to do that I can’t even figure out where to begin. More often, I feel like I have something I have to do that I not only don’t want to do, but don’t even know how to attempt. The worst part is that my first, second, third, and fourth attempts often get me nowhere. So I keep trying because, well, life is short, but not so short that I don’t have time to fail over and over again.
Off-topic: The members of LMFAO have the douchiest sunglasses and most punchable faces I’ve ever seen. If anyone reading this ever gets the chance, please murder them for me, okay? I’ll send you chocolates and roses.