This past Sunday was not a typical Sunday for me.
Instead of laying around the floor, drinking whiskey and eating Hostess cupcakes ("I can actually hear you getting fatter"), I decided to attend a musical based on a novella written by Voltaire and set to music by Leonard Bernstein.
Just to set the record straight - Voltaire and Bernstein were not buddies, they did not hang together; Voltaire wrote Candide in 1759, Bernstein wrote the score between 1953 and 1956.
Sometimes it takes 197 years for creative ideas to come to full fruition. I have been writing a whole hell of a lot of stuff since I semi-retired. I figure if any of it gets published by 2214 I will really have accomplished something. Please donate any proceeds from the sale of my work to the Whiskey Lovers of America Foundation.
My knowledge is spotty in some areas. In fact there are a lot of areas where I have only a passing awareness of stuff. Before Sunday, if you asked me if I knew what Candide was I would have said "Yeah, it is a play or a musical or some sort of theatrical production." But I could not have explained the plot (I still can't and I just experienced the goddamn thing) or told you who wrote it.
If you asked me who Voltaire was I would have told you he was a French philosopher.
Other than that I knew nothing.
I decided to dig a little deeper. Voltaire is described as "philosopher, historian, writer". Jesus Christ, if you tried to describe me you would be hard pressed to come up with one word. Dreamer, maybe.
I have a friend, Rich Gulla, who, when he introduces me to people says "This is my friend, Joe - he is a writer".
I love him for that. I don't consider myself a writer because I have not accomplished anything with my words. And I know there are millions of people out there who can write but are working in warehouses and on pig farms. Are we all writers? Or are we all dreamers?
Voltaire was quite an accomplished dude. He was considered one of the leading writers of the Enlightenment. He was imprisoned twice and spent years living in exile because he had the balls to speak up against the political injustices of the time.
He wrote Candide as a way to ridicule the prevailing philosophy of the time espoused by the Optimists, which essentially said "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds". Apparently the tipping point for Voltaire came after two devastating earthquakes that killed tens of thousands of people. Optimists comforted earthquake victims by saying the earthquakes had happened for "the best".
Voltaire's response: "The heirs of the dead would not come into their fortunes, masons would grow rich in rebuilding the city, beasts would grow fat on corpses buried in the ruins; such is the natural effect of natural causes. So don't worry about your own particular evil; you are contributing to the general good".
Does that not kick ass?
My initial intent was to compare Candide to the kind of stuff Monty Python did. The plot is absurd, intentionally so for reasons I don't have time to get into, but as I watched I thought about the Python boys.
Ultimately I couldn't do it; it is a bit of a stretch (although I still believe I could come up with something if I worked at it).
Anyway, the musical is fantastic. Absurd, entertaining, funny - it was different from any musical I have ever experienced. Which is good - I am always looking for different.
Voltaire was an impressive dude. Leonard Bernstein was an impressive dude; if you know the story of Candide, who the hell in his right mind would think he could set it to music?
Christ, man - you got people like this in the world, then you got me. My whole focus for the day is to write a little bit, exercise, eat some cereal, go to work, come home with a pizza, drink some beer, a little whiskey and find something offbeat to watch on TV.
Now that I think about it, maybe my words will not even be published in 2214.
But I suppose it's all for the best.