Humanity, the Musical

Sometimes a series of moments strikes odd.

In the airport, I watched an interaction of a couple in their 70’s. The husband offered to carry the wife’s suitcase, but she jerked it away with an annoyed, “I’ve got it.” I didn’t process it too far beyond curiosity until a few meters down the concourse, I saw another woman sitting in a chair with her feet in her husband’s lap as he massaged them.

The juxtaposition of the two couples stayed with me.

Now, what I failed to mention is that as I was thinking about this on my trip last week, I had a soundtrack courtesy of my headphones. An engaged couple’s duet about doubt and the upcoming nuptials (Xander and Anya) from “Buffy the Musical” interjected itself into my considerations:

“I lied. I said it’s easy.
I’ve tried, but there’s these fears I can’t quell.
X: Is she looking for a pot of gold?
A: Will I look good when I’m growing old?
X: Will our life be way too stressful if I’m never that successful?
A: What if I get so worn and wrinkly that I look like David Brinkley?
Am I crazy? Am I dreamin’? Am I marrying a demon?
We could really raise the beam in making marriage a hell.
So thank God I’ll never tell.”

For those of you who aren’t rabid Joss Whedon fans and have not seen this episode (several times), the plot to “Buffy the Musical” includes the revelation of all of the secrets the characters are hiding from the others. It’s worth mentioning that in each case the dishonesty is intended to protect, but rather than improving things the lies create walls and isolation.

So, with those images in mind, I took my seat on the plane.

You know that V of a view you get where you only see the shoulders of the couple in front of you? Well in this little window, the woman very tenderly stroked her husband’s shoulder, but he gave no acknowledgment to the gesture. He simply read his newspaper.

Again, Buffy helpfully supplied the background music.

“Why is the path unclear when we know hope is near? Understand we go hand in hand, but we’ll walk alone in fear."

It seemed a powerful statement. Going hand in hand, but walking along in fear. And it occurred to me we do exactly that. We keep secrets to protect. (No worries, John. You know all of mine.) We pull away. We’re afraid to need anything, and so we don’t let ourselves enjoy the magic of a simple touch on the shoulder or the offer for assistance with our bags.

For some of us, that self-sufficiency is a learned skill. Because growing up in a broken world, there are many times that we need some of the beautiful human basics and have no way to get them. We learn to live without or we don’t survive.

But the need remains. And the fear remains.

And just when I was completely discouraged over the whole fallen world we live in, I looked to my left at the couple sitting next to me (60-ish) and realized they’d been touching the whole time. Holding hands. Passing comforting gestures during take off and landing. As we stood and waited to deplane, he rubbed her shoulders. Little tender mercies of a life shared.

My iPod chimed in:

“I lived my life in shadow. Never the sun on my face.
It didn’t seem so sad though. I figured that was my place.
Now I ‘m bathed in light. Something just isn’t right.
I’m under your spell. How else could it be that anyone would notice me?
It’s magic I can tell. How you set me free. Brought me out so easily.”

Love really is magic.

All kinds. Romantic. Friendship. Worship. Random kindnesses shared between strangers…

What if our default were to open ourselves to it rather than to lie pretending we don't need it? Wouldn't that be a much more satisfying musical? A much, much better story? Openness to love makes even an ugly airport beautiful in parts.

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall