It has come to pass that I will be performing my play Planet Hospice (a lighthearted exploration of the sixth stage of grief, gallows humor) at the Ithaca Fringe Festival this coming April. Dates of the festival are April 14-17. Tickets are going to be amazingly cheap.
Planet Hospice is a lecture/clown performance on climate and extinction given by an evolutionary biology scientist named Dr. James Light. Doctor Light, who’s been cashiered from his cozy university job because his lectures upset his students, has been researching the tipping point for climate warming. He has been wrestling with the question of what people should do if in fact the human race is on a short path to extinction—if people are on the way to eternity’s trash compactor. Dr. Light presents his case while dressed in clown garb–And as a clown, he tells jokes. He makes balloon animals. He plays with puppets. He tells jokes about death and eternity and the Kardashians. But Dr. Light also talks about his own sense of loss. And he lays out a plan for what people might do if there’s no future (starting by being more generous and loving people). In his view, we are all in a condition of hospice and need to act on those things that are important, including the need to be with people we love.
As I’ve contemplated this production over the past week or two, I’ve been thinking about the narrative, much of which is cribbed from people like Dr. Guy McPherson and Dr. Carolyn Baker. The end of our era (and the probable end of our species) will not be caused by a meteor or comet hit or (barring craziness on the part of the US and Russia) because of military splitting of atoms. We’re facing this abyss because our downfall is our survival instinct. We like us. We like having lots of us around, especially if they all look like us. The urge to procreate (and the urge to find another) is our existential siren song. In re-reading the play recently, I’m reminded of Larry Kramer’s play ‘THE NORMAL HEART’, where his viewpoint character is dumbfounded at the gay community’s refusal to swear off sex (even temporarily) in order to save themselves from the AIDS holocaust. But, as W.H. Auden wrote in SEPTEMBER 1, 1939, the poem that provided Kramer’s title:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.
Or (to put it another way) we can think of ourselves as drops of water. And not a single drop of water thinks of itself as responsible for the hurricane.
We are the last in a line of survivor homo sapiens that stretches back a few hundred thousand years. Our ancestors survived mastodons and saber-tooth tigers and the hot savannas of Africa and the ice of Siberia. And the thing that made them survive is the thing that puts us on a short path to Planet Hospice. Something to contemplate over what appears to be our last snowfall here in NY for the winter season.