Wordholes

imageThe strangest thing happened to me the other day. Well, maybe not the strangest thing. The strangest thing would be if a pie plate floated into the room and started singing show tunes in the voice of Abe Lincoln.

A strange thing happened to me the other day. I was sitting reading a book when I forgot how old I was. In fact, for a split second, I felt I was 25 again. It was an odd feeling, not quite an out-of-body experience, more like an out-of-library experience.

I was sitting in the Haskell Opera House between scenes during our rehearsal for QNEK’s Arsenic and Old Lace, which opens Friday, April 24, and that’s one shameless plug right there. I was sitting in one of the 110-year-old wooden seats, reading my book, when this sense of agelessness washed over me.

It wasn’t a déja-vu. It wasn’t a flashback either, because I had never read this book before, although this translation of the book itself is 20 years old – Dance, Dance, Dance by Haruki Murakami. But that can’t be it. When I read Dickens, I don’t feel negative-150 years old.

It’s hard to explain but, in reading this book (and some weird, parallel-universe-type things happen in this book, so I don’t write off being influenced by the bizzaro world seeping off the page), I felt like I could be reading at any time in my life. What I was doing at that moment was no different from what I was doing years ago in a two-bit Toronto apartment or what I’ll be doing years from now when I’m lauded for my contributions to the advancement of spaghetti sauce technology. (You gotta have a dream.)

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised by the feeling. There are few things as unchanging over the course of one’s life as reading. Experience may colour what you gain from reading but the exercise itself remains essentially constant. Once you get the knack of it in childhood, reading becomes automatic. The eyes move back and forth, the fingers flick the pages, the lips blow the cookie crumbs out of the spine. Reading is reading.

Muscles may wither and bones may shrink, but inside, the brain processes reading as it always has, hopefully with no degradation until well into the latter years. Reading is automatic as wind, helping fancy take flight.

But why did it happen just then, at that moment? Perhaps it had something to do with the location, a theatre. The Haskell itself is over a century old, stubbornly sitting on the Canada-U.S. border, oblivious to the bureaucratic fussiness of our paranoid times. I was sitting in the U.S. The actors were on stage in Canada. It’s always been this way. Cherubs along the balcony grimaced patiently. Every step and movement was accompanied by a well-worn, comforting creak. It wouldn’t take too many alterations to this scene to imagine ourselves in the early 1900s. Only with less tuberculosis.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m back to acting after half a lifetime away. Last fall I played the bad guy, a bit of a sinister stretch. This time it’s a comedy, and I play Dr. Einstein – twitchy, spineless, morally ambidextrous. Typecasting, really. He’s also a character about my own age. This is a change from acting in my youth. As young actors playing old men, we would apply wrinkles with eyeliner and grey our hair with talcum powder, releasing great puffs of smoke whenever we moved too quickly.

Now the wrinkles are real, the grey authentic. But when I’m on stage, I don’t feel my age. In fact, during rehearsals, I forget my age. I forget most everything (but hopefully not my lines). Acting offers a brief respite from the daily worries and stresses, the appointments and schedules, the bills, the aches and pains. Time stops moving for a little while. It’s quite astounding.

So maybe the combination of being in a stress-free bubble in a timeless venue while reading as I have done all my life – and maybe due to the tactile connection with words on paper, another argument against electronic books – perhaps the continuum of art and literature created for a split second some sort of wormhole where the past and present collided, with me, ageless, at its centre.

Or maybe I was just having a stroke.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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39 Responses to Wordholes

  1. It sounds like a wonderful experience. I feel similarly when I’ve done improv classes. Part of it is due to the energy and focus required – it really takes you out of your everyday life. The other part I’ve found is that most performance arts encompass a diverse group of people, with a lot of younger people involved. Just for a few moments, you get to play and stop being the serious grownup with responsibilities.

  2. (1)If the floating pie thing we’re to happen, a theatre would be the most logical setting.
    (2) I am adding this theater to my bucket list as a place to visit. And that is not just for the floating pie possibility.
    (3) I am looking forward to your spaghetti sauce technology.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      It gets a lot of visitors, so welcome! If you click the link, you’ll see that the library is on the first floor and the theatre is on the second. It’s a wonderful hall with great acoustics too.

  3. Paul says:

    Very cool description of time perception Ross. I used to encounter the same feeling – of being in all times at once – when i was driving tractor-trailer long haul. It’s a sort of Zen state where one part of you is engaged in acting, thinking, reading, driving (whatever) while some other part floats free in time – as if you are in all of time simultaneously. It is a heady feeling that seems to be somewhat ephemeral – difficult to hold onto. It floats into and out of your consciousness on its own schedule but seemingly only when you are engaged in that which you love and are immersed. I still get it occasionally but only for a second or two – I used to enjoy it for literally hours at a time when driving long-haul. It is addictive. The interesting part is that it feels like you are in all of time and yet no time has passed.

    To me this effect that you described Ross, is a glimpse into the real nature of the universe – I do not think that time is linear as we assume it is, I think that linear effect is a function of this space-time continuum and is only a perception that we use to better organize and process our existence. When in this “timeful” (my idea of the opposite of timeless) state it is possible to think abut the bigger questions of life without using words for thoughts (or rather going beyond the words) – skipping between concepts like dancing across a river on protruding stepping stones. It is neat.

    Sorry I went all philosophical on you – it happens sometimes to us old guys – Ha! It is great that you are enjoying getting back to acting – doing what we love is, for me, a part of getting to the meaning of life.

    And a pie floating is as good as a pie on the table. Cherry or blueberry would be the best, if we get to choose. 😀

    Fun Post Ross.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Very interesting thoughts. It never occurred to me that what I felt to be fleeting could be harnessed for longer periods. Probably something meditation would help develop, likely very similar mind states. Thanks, Paul.

  4. Acting, writing, producing music, who do you think you are? Canadian Justin Timberlake? Or is it Canadien Justin Timberlake? Break a leg.

  5. Karen says:

    I think I may have had a similar experience, so either you’re not crazy, or we both are. 😉 I don’t recall the circumstances exactly, but, a few years ago, I remember thinking that I needed to tell my father what had just happened to me, and then I thought, “Oh, wait, I can’t tell him. He’s dead.” Both my parents passed away when I was 21, which was at least ten years before this incident, but at that moment, I needed to remind myself and sort of reorient in time. It was a weird sensation, almost like when you wake up from a nap and you’re not sure what day it is.

    Or maybe we’re like Billy Pilgrim and have become unstuck in time?

    That book by Murakami looks interesting. I love how varied your reading interests are. I think I’m going to have to pick it up.

  6. The older I get, the more ageless I feel. In lots of ways, I don’t feel any different than I did when I was 25, which is scary because I was pretty immature back then. Maybe I’m fooling myself and I’m just a really old looking immature person. 🙂

    Great post. 🙂

  7. markbialczak says:

    I say enjoy it while you’ve got it, Ross, that moment of transformation. Perhaps you did something at 25 that was so similar to all of your senses at once that this Ross connected the dots.

  8. How would you know it was Abe Lincoln’s voice? Maybe it was Matthew Mcconaughey driving a Lincoln Pie Plate.

  9. I’m happy to see you back on stage. What a thrill! That’s the beauty of acting–you can do it until you’re in your grave. Try doing that with a sport. Your skills gradually erode. On the other hand, you can become a better actor as you age. I wish I had the balls to do it but it would upset my delicate constitution. Break a leg. What’s another opening night? Nothing at all. No, not much. Will there be video highlights you can post?

    Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” is one of my all-time favs. Have you read that one yet?

    A stroke seems kind of severe. Maybe it was just gas.

  10. ksbeth says:

    one man’s stroke is another’s immersion in story. all in the perspective. good luck with the play –

  11. pinklightsabre says:

    I like the sound of the creaking floorboards. Break a leg.

  12. Ned's Blog says:

    I have think feeling half your age is partly due to sitting in a chair twice as old as you. I also think there’s some merit to the idea that when you are doing something you truly love on a regular basis (or someone — preferably both, actually) there is a feeling of agelessness. Unless you get up from your chair too fast.

    Glad to hear you are back to the stage. It seems that it agrees with you 😉

  13. Liz Hott says:

    Well done with the shameless plug, my friend and do break a leg! I love this thought, too – I do think it’s something to do with being fully immersed in other worlds – the play, the book, what have you – that you’re just sort of out of body. Something to think about for this Friday!!

  14. Awesome! I’m not on stage anymore, but I recently started giving myself barre classes at home after many years away from ballet. And I have been feeling that youthful je ne sais quoi. My body and brain know dancing like nothing else. When I don’t do dance, it feels wrong…and I definitely old and cranky. Interesting…

  15. Carrie Rubin says:

    Well, stroke or not ( 😉 ), how wonderful to be ageless, even if only for a little while. It’s wonderful you have a passion that provides you the suspension of time (like acting does for you). Yet another reason why we should make time for the things we love.

  16. Melanie says:

    I don’t know what you would do without these critical corrections I send in once in a while, but I’m pretty sure “bizzaro” is actually “bizarro”. Just saying…

  17. Bill says:

    At first I wondered how you would be able to recognize the voice of Abe Lincoln. But then I realized that, being the strangest thing, it makes sense.

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