Natasha and Liam and the rest of us
Friday, March 20, 2009
As I look at those photographs of two of them looking impossibly beautiful and adoring, it occurs to me that beyond our sympathy is an expectation that these two actors are still telling us a story that we need to know about. A character on screen, stage, or page has something to tell us about ourselves. Whether it’s a real or a fictional character, there is somehow a lesson or a revelation about the way we live in the world. Madame Bovary, Holden Caufield, Elizabeth Bennett, and, yes Oskar Schindler, have important things to tell us about ourselves and those around us. When Hamlet tells his players to “hold, as ‘twere the mirror up to nature,” what is on view is, as he later tells his mother, “the inmost part of you.”
We’ve seen this before and felt it, the inexplicable sadness on hearing of the death of a public figure. Someone we didn’t know, never saw in person, maybe didn’t even think about. And yet, the public keening, somehow strangely genuine. Maybe it comes from a recognition of our common experiences and what we learn from what we read about and see.
And so what I’m thinking is how Liam Neeson is now, in his real and private grief, continuing to be an actor for us in a way, showing us what grief is, giving us the chance to think about how we might be in that circumstance. We have almost certainly, each of us, witnessed grief close up even if we have not felt it ourselves. But this more distant grief may be easier for us to see.
We are unlikely ever to have a loss that makes international headlines and dims the theater lights on Broadway. But we will, each of us, face loss. We will be the ones “shocked and devastated.” We know this. And even as we ache for what we recognize in the pale face in the photographs, we search it for clues to our own humanness.