THE DEVIL: What is the use of knowing?
DON JUAN: Why, to be able to choose the line of greatest advantage instead of yielding in the direction of the least resistance.
This is my favorite bit of dialogue from DON JUAN in Hell by George Bernard Shaw. This is from his play Man and Superman. This particular Act (as I understood it) is mainly about Don Juan wanting to discover himself and discover the true meaning of man (which he started to do while on Earth). But he can’t do that in Hell, where man just spends his time enjoying the pleasures of love, beauty, joy, happiness, etc. He must got to Heaven, where man doesn’t have “fun”, in order to contemplate his own self. (I never did quite understand completely the need to go to Heaven to do this.)
While we were watching the play from our stage level seats (it’s a loft space in a much bigger theater) I smiled and grinned and laughed my way through the Don Juan’s monologue on marriage and societal “norms” and expectations of men and women. I could relate, as I’ve been struggling lately with society. I’m angry at society and what it’s telling me I must do and how I must behave. I could identify with Don Juan – I am on my own journey of self-discovery. One that I’ve been ignoring for about 12 years. It’s depressing and beautiful and exciting and daunting and awful and lonely and amazing. I feel all of these emotions at once and then none of them at all. I want to crawl into dark holes and close my eyes. I want to drink my pain into a tiny ball I can hold in my hand, say, “fuck you” and then throw out the window. But sometimes I feel more beautiful than I’ve felt in 13 years. Sometimes I feel as though I’m dancing down the street with two feet lightly lifted off the ground. In some ways, I’ve never been happier. I haven’t been this happy since I was 17 years old, floating around the halls of my high school, contemplating the beauty of life.
I’ve always been a bit of Don Juan: Enjoying all the beauty and tragedy of life while trying to search for something more. Rejecting all society has to throw at me in favor of inner-happiness. (I use to be like this, or more like this, until society finally beat my soul down to the point of submission.) There is this one word that rings through my ears, often and loud: Ambition. People in my life use to use that word to describe me. People use to believe in me. I used to be a person that others looked at said, “Look at her. She knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to go after it.” And then, 12 years ago, someone broke me. Completely sucked all of the joy and beauty and ambition and promise I had for life. I lost all hope. I didn’t believe in love anymore. I didn’t believe in the goodness of people. All the beauty and innocence I felt and had for the world just vanished. I had been crushed by lies and deceit and false promises, all the while my innocence and beauty was being sucked dry. I didn’t trust myself enough to make any of the right decisions (and so I purposely made “wrong” ones that I knew wouldn’t require I extend a lot of emotional energy.)
I suspect I’ll talk more about this on my blog, but for now I just wanted to post these lines between the Devil and Don Juan. Because when the Devil asked and Don Juan turned around and looked him in the eyes and spoke those words, my heart quickened and I exhaled in a way I haven’t done in a while. I almost started crying. I almost jumped up from my seat and shouted, “Exactly!” But Don Juan said perfectly what I’ve been thinking over the past few months. Why do this? I could be “happy” (as the way it’s defined by friends, social norms, and society). Why bother to go through all this emotional and life upheaval? Because if I don’t I’ll never know. Because taking the path of least resistance doesn’t equate to happiness, it just equates to resignation. I don’t want to resign my fate. I need to know. I need to discover. Even if that means causing pain to make it happen. I cannot yield anymore.