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WORD WISE – World’s a stage

Esther Phillips

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I was in the middle of teaching a drama text one day when a loud quarrel broke out in the village next door. An opportune moment! Under my instruction and to the students’ great delight, we downed books and chalk and headed outside the classroom.
This was better than a room with a view. We were occupying a balcony position with the whole scene playing itself out right before us. The “characters” either didn’t notice us or were undeterred by our presence. This, however, was no ordinary “Bajan maliciousing”. Here was a wonderful opportunity for students to see life imitating art, at least initially.
I had provided my students with a definition of conflict, which is, simply put, different characters wanting different things at the same time. Well, given the exchange – particularly between two of the most vocal of the women – the students gained a perfect understanding that the opposite was also true: two female characters presumably wanting the same male could just as surely create a situation of extreme conflict.
Moreover, the students were now being provided with some of the most graphic examples of how dialogue functions in relation to theme! The atmosphere was more than rife with the tensions so essential to drama.
My students were not necessarily witnessing such a scene for the first time, but a lesson was clearly being drawn. Against the backdrop of the text they were studying, and among whatever other definitions existed, life was drama. 
And we all have our moments of drama, however small or even slightly comedic. For example, while driving to work one morning I attempted to cross from a side lane into a main on the highway.
I won’t go into the details of the bungling that occurred on my part. Suffice it to say that a vehicle quickly overtook mine and an obviously enraged youngish man jumped out. He approached me, arms flailing: “Woman, you is a idiot or wha?!!”
I remained calm as I am inclined to do and apologised while trying to explain briefly why I had made the error. He continued his tirade and was by now right up to my window.
Suddenly the young man leaned closer with a marked change of expression: “Ma’am? Mrs Phillips?”
“Yes,” I acknowledged, not recognising him.
“Sorry, sorry, Ma’am. You used to teach me at . . . school. I didn’t know it was you.”
I was gracious, of course, as a good few more of his apologies followed. Poor fellow, even his car looked contrite as it drove off.
Of course, there are many more daily occurrences of far greater seriousness and with all the ingredients of pure tragedy. Take the Dudus Coke affair, heavy with the kind of intrigue that grows more and more complex as each layer unfolds. I can’t think of anything more painful in the recent history of the Caribbean.
The sad irony is that many of the “actors” are reputedly among those in high places from whom many still expect some kind of exemplary behaviour.  
I once heard a theologian express a most interesting idea. He was of the opinion that Jesus, when He went off alone, did not always go to pray or meditate as we believe. His view was that the Master sometimes took these moments by Himself to have a good laugh. Not the humour of mockery or derision, but one born of an infinite knowledge and understanding of human foibles, our posturings and our limitations. What else but laughter often stops tears?
I am aware that the humanist philosophy is open to varied interpretations. But I remain baffled by its belief, as far as I understand it, that we human beings can generate a universal benevolence through the use of reason, ethics and justice; all this without divine aid.
I have yet to see any such thing happening. Indeed, much of the tragic drama around us is, to my mind, the result of our unreason and natural selfishness. Follow the newscasts, for example: our folly and brutality trump goodness almost every time.
And so the drama of life continues with all its complexities, but sometimes touched by humour as well. It must be true that living is itself an art. It is how well we learn its lessons, catch something of its shades and nuances, that makes the difference.