April 2024

New Again and Forever Old


Arthur Danin Adler

As the years stand still…they babble. Incessantly. Text messages and emails and voices into little mobiles stuck in their ears and blogs and twitters and facebooks and youtubes and newscasts and talk shows and press conferences and chit-chatter as they walk in the streets and shop in stores and eat&drink, as they chatteringly demystify intimacy by making sex not love. They babble, hardly hear, barely listen, remember little. From the Age of Elegance to the Age of Reason to the Age of Invention to the Age of whatever the 20th century was to the Age of Babble. Only the born-deaf among us stay ahead of the struggle to be free in their own privacy. Only they can truly ‘read’. Only Helen Keller understood life in the present, what Siddhartha meant by: “those who live in the past have no future and those who live in the future do not live.”

Babbling on…

Every time I revisit the film, Children of Men, I am heart-struck by Alfonso Cuarón’s menacing vision of life in a flooded, suffocating land—a landscape wet, covered with residual mud, a blue-grey landscape inhabited by mud-people, who no longer can hear their own thoughts, who are suffocating in a dissolving world and like dying fish are frantically trying to pierce the surface for a gasp of air, for the sound of their own names. It is a coldly frightening, almost intolerable view of a tolerated reality. It is Kubrick’s “2002” and Mallick’s “New World” and Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven.”

In his film, Cuarón acquires the status of a visionary filmmaker and all the artistry that goes with it. As in the apocalyptic visions of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, Cuarón sets his image in England, that persevering bastion of civilization, healthy or sick, which at a time of Earth-shattering catastrophe offers the only home for reasonable human survival. Cuarón’s England, whose language has become a polyglot of world tongues, is now reduced to an unrelenting, 24-hour-a-day babble: police-state government babble, enterprising commercial babble, insane political babble, babbling people who cannot close their mouths or still their voices for fear that the lights will go out in their eyes. It is an image of a melting world that has lost the rule of law and the balance of human rights, whose only hope is in the belly of a young woman, who doesn’t know how that hope got there.

A dream?... or a familiar view of the horizon of our ungovernable planet as it disintegrates after 600 years of disappearing resources, the result of an uncontrolled, overwhelming explosion of population, lack of understanding, refusal to understand, a mushroom of babble that culminates in one arrogant phrase: “Good night and good luck!”?

Unbearable? Depressing? No, I don’t think so. Think of Helen Keller and Siddhartha. Think of nonvocal music and nonverbal dance. Think of the silence of mother-evolution. Think of the silence in the loving eyes in which you can see yourself and all the colors of the sea.


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Arthur Danin Adler is a playwright, writer and the founding Editor of Scene4. For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives.


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©2024 Publication Scene4 Magazine


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