Saturday, January 22, 2011

Antigone

On Wednesday night I went to see Josie play in Antigone.


Antigone is a difficult story to portray; asking a group of high school students to pull off a Greek tragedy centered around incest, death, and tyranny is a lot to ask. There were some deep and disturbing themes that were unavoidable but overall they did a great job. It was an interesting interpretation to be sure, with puppetry and voice-overs and odd things like that. Josie was in the chorus, which was an incredibly awesome chorus, if I do say so, myself. And I do.

At one point in the play, Antigone explains her motive for flouting the law by burying her brother. It was an interesting explanation, one that I think naive, but perhaps that is what Sophocles was going for:

Yet am I justified in wisdom's eyes.
For even had it been some child of mine,
Or husband mouldering in death's decay,
I had not wrought this deed despite the State.

What is the law I call in aid? 'Tis thus
I argue. Had it been a husband dead
I might have wed another, and have borne
Another child, to take the dead child's place.
But, now my sire and mother both are dead,
No second brother can be born for me.
Thus by the law of conscience I was led
To honor thee, dear brother, and was judged
By Creon guilty of a heinous crime.

Basically, she's saying that spouses and offspring are easily replaceable, whereas a sibling is not. I think that is a rather bold statement for an unwed nulligravida. Relinquishing something you've never had is often much easier than giving up something you currently cherish. At the same time, I know that giving up on your dreams is much more painful than achieving them.

I don't really know where I'm trying to go with this idea. In short I think it is that we, as people, but specifically I, should be grateful to be in the situation we are in. So often I see people, or myself, bogged down in the "if only" trap.

The truth is, most of us (specifically me) are so abundantly blessed that showing excessive cupidity is unfitting to our situation. Instead we should be grateful for the things that we have. I still don't understand Antigone's reaction—why she would risk her life to bury her brother is beyond me—but I don't have her religious convictions, either. I wish, though, that she would have taken the time to think about her own life, her fiance, her surviving family members. Maybe then she wouldn't have acted so rashly. On the other hand I think there was some sort of tyranny going on, though this wasn't really clear from what I saw of the play, so perhaps Antigone thought it was wise that she speak out against the regime for the benefit of the rest of society.

It's hard to know how we would act in any given situation yet it is so easy to boldly claim what we would do if we were in someone else's shoes. It's another version of the "if only" trap. Yet another variant is being unwilling to allow others to sympathise with you because they "don't know" or "don't understand." People have a tendency to want to believe that their lot in life is the most arduous, the most challenging, the most difficult. The truth is that everyone has trials.

My mom credits my auntie Colleen with saying that it doesn't matter whether you have one child or thirteen children—they are going to take up all your time.

We're all given trials but are promised that we won't be tried above which we are able to bear (1 Cor. 10:13). I think that if we're given a trial it is because we can handle it, because there is something we need to learn from it, and while we can learn from the mistakes and trials of others it's best to learn from our own.

Josie's teacher said that he hoped the play would make us think—it was Sophocles' intent to get the audience to think and her teacher said he shared that goal—and I really have been thinking about it quite a bit.

I am not a heroine of Greek tragedy. I am me.

I still have my challenges, as do you; we can learn from our own lives, we can learn from each other; but perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to judge one another.

I don't know what I would have done if I had been in Antigone's place. She seemed to feel her choice was between serving God and serving mammon. She did what she thought would be serving God in spite of any temporal consequence. That's admirable. But knowing what I know I am not sure it was the right decision; I believe how a body is buried has no bearing on how the soul is treated after death. Her decision doesn't make much sense to me but would it make more sense if I were an Ancient Grecian who feared and worshiped Zeus and Hades?

I don't know; I just wish tragedies didn't have to be so tragic.

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