Friday, April 29, 2011

Now Let's All Be Ballerinas!

Are we done with this royal wedding thing now?

Actually, it is perhaps a bit hypocritical of me to derisively ask that, considering that I'm certain to be checking on the story in the morning in order to see what the ratings were for the coverage of the event. But personally, the only thing I find interesting about this is the public's interest in it. So I'm paying some attention to it until it goes away, in hopes that it does so swiftly.

That's not to say that I don't understand the appeal. These are profoundly difficult times for many of us, and something so romantic and lavish as a royal wedding provides a marvelous fantasy and an opportunity to live vicariously through princes and princesses for a day. I understand it, but I disapprove. I don't begrudge anyone an appeal to escapism, but this sort of cultural voyeurism inhibits breaking points.

We have two main options when something like this is positioned to dominate the media - aside from ignoring it. We can imagine what it would be like to be there, and make believe until reality melts away for a little while, or we can recognize that we could never be there, that this is put forward as a point of stark contrast with our actual, down in-the-dirt lives, and that these are real people we're watching, for whom this kind of excess is commonplace. The former point of view is comfortable; it helps us to coast through an ordinary day on dreams of a different, regal life, but ultimately we do have to come back to a fuller awareness of where we actually stand.

The second option is cynical and seemingly self-defeating, and I prefer it hands down. It robs us of an opportunity to take second-hand pleasure from a rare, beautiful occasion, but at least it doesn't give us over to further delusions. It gives us a better sense of reality, a clearer vision of how what is painfully familiar looks when set against the dazzlingly vibrant backdrop of an alternative that is inaccessible to anyone who isn't born into it. And anything that makes us see more clearly also lets us better identify what is worth pursuing and what is worth rebelling against.

You have to be willing to put aside small joys sometimes, in favor of always keeping in mind the truth of what is going on and how it affects you. That is how we reach a breaking point.

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