Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pavarotti Vs. the Space Aliens

Face it, the human race is a disappointment. Everything we require to construct Utopia is in front of us, and we choose instead—depending who we are, what our trip is—to tacitly permit, or passively enable, or even actively erect, a world that is terribly unjust, even desperate for many, and hell for many more. It's tempting to believe what Sontag said about White People being at fault, but who are we kidding? We're all doomed by the same flawed chromosomes. Genocide has flourished on every continent, practiced by every race, within the relatively brief span of the last century. People all over the world don't have enough to eat, die every day from famine, from preventable diseases, from natural disasters, from innumerable wars, and their after-effects. I remember Churchill commending America for the Marshall Plan—"the most unsordid act in history," were I believe the words he used—but even excepting the obvious fact that he, himself, was a person whose bigotry precipitated the deaths of more than a million Indians (not to mention the Irish blood on his hands because of the black and tans), one must realize that this "unsordid act", taken at face value, was so mainly compared to the usual course of human history and behavior. We were, are, and will be for the foreseeable future, a barbaric lot. The planet is warming, true, due to our unbridled appetites and our massive egotism, so maybe we'll all be gone soon, and it will be academic. Nature can heal itself, and start over. I dunno. If so, we'll be the only losers. Earth will be fine. Earth will go on, and it's unlikely anyone will note that we were ever here.

I wonder sometimes how I would vote, if I was an Alien—you know, from outer space, like Klaatu—looking upon the human race, dispassionately, to decide its fate. It would be tempting to tell old Gort the Robot to just have at em. How would we defend ourselves, if push came to shove?—how would we demonstrate to a superior species that we just need more time to evolve, that the seeds for basic goodness, and perhaps even greatness, are in us, still gestating, hard to see sometimes, but there, nonetheless?

That's where the Maestro comes in. I imagine the aliens assembled about us. They are giving us one last chance to justify ourselves before they end us, forever. We gather together—what will we do? Who can state our case? We think of combinations of great legal minds, great statesmen, and orators. We think of strategies for argument, themes for vindication—and someone strikes on the idea. So simple. So true. One man shall state the argument. One man will plead our case, and show that we are worth our many faults. One giant man.

Pavarotti strides across the forum to a microphone. Lifts his head, simultaneously sweeping his cape foreward, over his hunched, proud shoulders—he is ill, with cancer, and knows he has just little time left—and in his eyes, we see the majesty that human life is capable of summoning, the lamp of its untapped genius, the soaring goodness that lives at its heart. He clasps his hands together, and opens his mouth—it is Puccini's Nessun Dorma—and the aliens understand.

They cry, alien tears (they smell like old fish—the tears, I mean).

And we are saved.

Watch the video, if you doubt it (unfortunately, it merely a link, not the video itself. Don't be a lunkhead, hit the damn link, and see for yourself. Then meet me back here).

Pavarotti Last Performance "Nessun Dorma" Torino 2… - MyVideo

There. You could see it, couldn't you?—assuming you don't speak Italian, of course, that might tax the illusion (not knowing what the lyrics mean makes them some of the most beautiful poetry ever written—understanding could only be a letdown).

When I feel doubtful about the potential of our species, this is one of the things I do. Stand outside myself, and watch Pavarotti, pleading for his people. I love this version, his last public performance. During the break in his singing, when the orchestra plays to the chorus (this is the human race allowed to have a brief word, before the Maestro sums up), the look on his face is magnificent—it is the pure joy of existence, it is the unbridled, ecstatic exultation of the spirit, achieved by the alchemy of our highest art. In that moment, and as he soars to his conclusion moments after, I know—in spite of all evidence to the contrary—we will muddle through. And even somehow deserve to.

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