Tuesday, October 27, 2009

… and the day we all dropped dead…

Life is circuitous.

I say this not just because it happens to be true but also because I like the sound of the word circuitous.

Here’s an example…

A few months ago, I decided to start doing research on a new philosophy book. It was going to be a book about ethics, contributing to ethical theory. It was going to be called Dynamic Pluralism: Ethics for a 21st Century World. I completed quite a bit of research, enough to know that I had something substantive to add. And then, I stopped.

I wrote another play.

Then, I got this staged reading I’m working on.

But I’ve been dying to write and, all along, I’ve been telling myself, “You really should start writing that books on ethics, you know?”

I knew. But something was stopping me. When I realized what it was it made a sad, regretful kind of sense. Plainly, I knew that it didn’t matter what I had to add. Any book I wrote on ethics would be just as ignored as if a 12 year old wrote it. Those who publish books on philosophy – those very few left in the world – are only looking for writers who are already famous for writing books on philosophy. I learned that all too well with Climbing Maya. It was a two-edged slit to the throat: nobody wants to publish philosophy unless you’re famous for writing philosophy. How many famous living philosophers can you name?

I carried this knowledge around with me for a few weeks, with no idea what to do. Then, a few days ago, an alternative began pushing its way through my thick skull. It began with a phrase: The Death of Ethics. That phrase came to me and I thought, “Indeed. Philosophy itself is dead so long as people think it doesn’t relate to them.” And, of course, they don’t. They don’t see the world around them being in a philosophical quandary; nobody looks that far.

Then, it occurred to me that any death of ethics would equally spell demise for morality, as they are roommates on the same coin. But I thought it was something rueful coming out, something morose… far from it.

After about a day of these things spinning through my head, I wrote: The Death of Ethics, The Demise of Morality, and the day we all dropped dead… And when I smiled at the thought, I realized what was happening. Just because I couldn’t write a book on ethics didn’t mean I couldn’t use all these ideas I have. I just had to put them into something I can do.

That’s when I realized my next play would be set in the near future, just as mankind has used up everything on earth. No oil, no animals, no fish, no clean water, no clean air, no plants – the earth is all used up. Typically, people are ignoring that. They’re throwing a wedding. And someone asks, “How the hell did we get here? Who is to blame?” Of course, it all goes back to ethics. So, the play will be called The Death of Ethics, The Demise of Morality, and the day we all dropped dead…

The whole thing seems so funny to me – darkly, sickly funny – that I’ve even written a song. Based on the diseased consumerism we’ve all been addicted to for the past 50 years or so, the song is called “We ate them all!” and it’s a list of all the things that are long, long gone because we ate it all up.

Of course, the play ends with everyone dead, poisoned from feasting on shit. A fitting end if ever there was one.

I don’t know if I’ll really be able to write this but if I do it’ll be far and away a new level for me, beyond the rom-coms I’ve been writing. It’ll be almost as worthwhile as a book on ethics…

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