Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sanity and Handbrake Turning Points

"O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven
Keep me in temper: I would not be mad!"
Shakespeare, King Lear

We saw Laurence Olivier's King Lear last night. Simply the best performance ever. Thanks, Netflix. But, how to describe the play?

Permit me to digress. According to Wikipedia: “When Lisa and Homer discuss the language to use in his first review Homer attempts to augment nouns with 'groin-grabbingly'. Lisa offers the word 'transcendent' to which Homer replies, 'What about groin-grabbingly transcendent?'”

Sir Laurence's portrayal of a powerful king losing his mind, of navigating dysfunctional family relations and betrayal is best described using Homer's timeless phrase. And to those who say The Simpson's is low-brow, I say 'Good day sir!'

Which got me thinking about other experiences where the term is apt. Upon serious consideration, between loads of wash yesterday, I sat outside, warmed by the late winter sunshine, cleaning herbs for soup. I came up with this idea.

That expression also perfectly describes certain instances in one's life where great change is afoot. Such turns along the Road of Life are typically approached way too fast, making it feel like one is a passenger in a sports car careening down a steep mountain road, driven by a suicidal madman, and pursued by screaming daemons of age.

At such times, we struggle to retain compos mentis while navigating handbrake turns: dangerous, dramatic and, life-changing. Once such turns are in the rear-view mirror and the death-defying theatrics are over, the moments are recalled as “groin-grabbingly transcendent”. Surviving handbreak turns provide us with moments of such clarity, albeit tinged with a kind of life-flashing-before-your-eyes panic, that ordinary life becomes once more relatively peaceful and bearable.

At such times, I think it helps to think of what King Lear said. I would like not to become mad. Handbreak turns are sometimes required to keep on the right road, and I think they can sometimes help us to stay sane and temperate.


tina said...

I agree, and if we don't use them voluntarily sometimes they lock up on us and shift our course anyhow.

Weeping Sore said...


I hope you see this note. I'm unable to post comments on your blog. After I type a comment, I select my Google blogger identity, and then I get a word verification window on top of the message, but I can't see the word I'm supposed to type.


Dawn said...

Geez, that's deep, I would not like to compare life's path to a automobile out of control, driver grasping at the rear view for decisions. I'm scared of being scared! I KNOW that's some sort of phobia, gotta be.

walk2write said...

Thanks, WS, for letting me know. I was having trouble with the site a few days ago and thought everything had been resolved. I changed the comment format last week, and maybe that's why it's acting up. I think my site has a mind of its own sometimes. Like a rat, it's displaying evidence of metacognition. Per your post: I have dreams sometimes of careening down a hill, but I'm stuck in reverse. Double jeopardy!

Martha in Michigan said...

Transcendent, if not groin-grabbing, writing — as usual for you, WS. Now, of course, I'm wondering what recent hair's-breadth escape from doom prompted it. Surely not the loss of cable? :-)