Today my head is full of the music of violence. I believe this to be in part because I just finished rereading Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I remember loving this play (and the movie version starring Elizabeth Taylor - oh, she was divine in that role) as a kitten.
However, upon finishing reading yesterday, I was struck by how fundamental violence is to the story. There is the gun, the throttling of Martha, Honey yelling "violence, violence," George slapping Martha repeatedly, the flowers he brings in, and it is possible I am forgetting more instances. Oh yes, the killing of George's parents. The death of Martha and George's "son."
Did I simply miss this violence when I was younger? Did violence bother me less then than it does today? Why is that? Perhaps I have become one of those clichés - an old cat, eyes oversensitive to the light, blinking into a new day, wondering where exactly I am and how I got here. I believe I did turn ten this year, you know. Nine or ten. Eleven? I am no longer a young cat.
Or is it possible that all creatures have an intrinsic capacity for violence that we learn to shelter ourselves from? Is it as though we are peering through partially opened blinds into the brightest light of the afternoon? But then, we do not all strive to forget this violence. This must be the case with characters like George and Martha who so delight in inflicting pain.
There is a scene in act two where Nick and George are having a conversation that turns into an argument. George is ostensibly giving Nick advice about how to succeed at the college - Nick has just said "UP YOURS!" to him, and George replies:
"You take the trouble to build a civilization... to... to build a society, based on the principles of... of principle... you endeavor to make communicable sense out of natural order, morality out of the unnatural disorder of man's mind... you make government and art, and realize they are, must be, both the same... you bring things to the saddest of all points... to the point where there is something to lose... then all at once, through all the music, comes the Dies Irae. And what is that? What does the trumpet sound? Up yours. I suppose there's justice to it, after all the years... Up yours" (117).
I believe that George is joking and I also believe that he is not joking.
"The unnatural disorder of man's mind," is he here speaking of himself? And how can anything about our minds be unnatural? What about woman's mind?
Ah, I joke, I joke - it is merely that I cannot stand when the default is masculine. I am a cat of our times, you must grant me this.
In any case, what are these four characters struggling to achieve? Why the verbal (and physical) bloodshed?
Could it be that simply existing is an act of violence? I am here, and because of this, some other cat was not born. I am here, and so I consume resources that are wrested from the earth, torn from starving children's hands, resources covered in the blood of the most vulnerable. Is my mere existence a part of that "trumpet sound," that "up yours," that begets the Dies Irae?
Why fight my violent nature when I commit violence without even realizing? And what might that seed of violence look like? Is it the dog, snaggle tooth bared, barking at me in the bathroom? Is it me, perched on the kitchen counter, hissing at Fremlin? Does the seed of violence inside of me have a shape? Might it look like a burning sun? A broken bone?
A glass eye? There must be a way to see into that which we obscure from ourselves, but should we? Would I be able to stand the revelation?
Or is it more likely I would crumble before the reflection of my true nature.