Tuesday, July 26, 2005


"SONIA: What can we do? All we can do is live. Yes, we shall live, Uncle Vanya. We shall live through the long procession of days before us, and through the long evenings; we shall patiently bear the trials that fate imposes on us; we shall work for others without rest, both now and when we are old; and when our last hour comes we shall meet it humbly, and there, beyond the grave, we shall say that we have suffered and wept, that our life was bitter, and God will have pity on us. Ah, then dear, dear Uncle, we shall see that bright and beautiful life; we shall rejoice and look back upon our sorrow here; a tender smile--and--we shall rest. I have faith, Uncle, fervent, passionate faith. [SONIA kneels down before her uncle and lays her head on his hands. She speaks in a weary voice] We shall rest. [TELEGIN plays softly on the guitar] We shall rest. We shall hear the angels. We shall see heaven shining like a jewel. We shall see all evil and all our pain sink away in the great compassion that shall enfold the world. Our life will be as peaceful and tender and sweet as a caress. I have faith; I have faith. [She wipes away her tears] My poor, poor Uncle Vanya, you are crying! [Weeping] You have never known what happiness was, but wait, Uncle Vanya, wait! We shall rest. [She embraces him] We shall rest. [The WATCHMAN'S rattle is heard in the garden; TELEGIN plays softly; MME. VOITSKAYA writes something on the margin of her pamphlet; MARINA knits her stocking] We shall rest."

- Anton Chekhov 'Uncle Vanya'

But what if we don't have faith, Sonia? What if, for reasons of outrage or heroism or just plain old fashioned stubbornness we refuse to believe, refuse to be cajoled into happiness by the prospect of that belief? What if we would rather be disappointed in ourselves than disappointed in God?

What if the trouble is different - what if the problem is not that one has a life without joy but that one feels joy without a life? What if all these feelings are only images dancing on the surface of a river while the water slides by underneath?

You say we must do the accounts. Very well. But what if, when all the tiny little details have been added together, your life refuses to balance? No matter how many times you check them, the figures simply don't add up? What if the trouble with your life is not simply a miscalculation, an error - what if there really is something missing? How do we make that up, Sonia? Can we just make up a number called God and make our lives balance that way? Wouldn't that be stealing?

But look how I'm rambling now. Just listen to me whine. Or better, pay no attention to me. What do I know? I'm only Vanya, Vanya the fool, Vanya the has-been. I am like a man who paces around a deserted house looking for a way in. Forgive me. I am trying to remember how to be kind to you. I am trying to remember how to be kind to myself. Don't you dare believe a word I just said, Sonia. Cling to your burden because without that you are just a tramp without baggage, bound for nowhere.

Enough talk. You're tired now, my dear, I can hear it in your voice. Go to bed. We can tally it all up in the morning. Go to bed and try not to think about today. Don't worry about the lights - I'll turn them off when I'm done. It's the least I can do after all you've been through. Go now. Goodnight.

[she leaves]

Yes, it's the least I can do. There's always someone who has to do it, isn't there? Someone who has to turn out the lights and grope his way back to his bed all alone in the darkness. It might as well be me.